Practices for Unveiling
Remember that apocalypse was a genre, in which the seer wrote down visions of relationship with the luminous epinoia, symbolism, archetypes, messages from Mystery and from the mythopoetic body. There’s nothing to stop us from opening to our own unveiling / life poetry / vision / art. Below are some practices which have come to me. They are not intended as ‘how to’s’ so much as examples.
Vultures in ecstasy as they tear apart a carcass on a desert highway at dawn: some of us appreciate that kind of thing. Some of us who appreciate that kind of thing also grieve for the senseless killing that is part of the inevitable price we pay for the speed of our lives.
I confess to feeling more at home on the road in my van than anywhere; I’m guilty of that restless addiction. I love being in that place of neither here nor there. Passing through. Belonging everywhere and nowhere.An encounter with a dying deer and the grief of identifying with both the roadkiller and the roadkilled led me to an awareness of the ongoing roadkilling of the human heart.
Pay attention: notice moments when the tenderness of the human heart wants to emerge into a situation. Notice how often that moment is sped right over, how that moment is roadkilled before it barely appears. It’s not a personal deficiency: there’s no need to hide from it as a personal neurosis to feel ashamed of. It’s the speed of the so-called culture, the addiction to that speed, the ways you have been programmed to armor your heart, the ways you have been programmed to not listen to its whispers and the ways your egoic consciousness has been taught to be an attack dog on a short leash.
Even so-called spiritual talk / beliefs / ideologies can be highjacked as weapons. Perhaps you have seen this too.
If you are with me on ending the self/other war, then watching out for roadkill moments is a stunning practice to have in your pocket. Are you willing to serve the tenderness of the human heart? There is a safety measure in such practices: if you are serving the tenderness of the human heart, not just individual ‘what’s in it for me?’ but a collective tenderness, then you might become permeable enough and vulnerable enough to not get caught in the inevitable egoic snares that the human ego in these times, whether yours or others, puts out along all the pathways.
Early in my experiments, I was so eager to experiment with ending the self/other war that I got tangled up with a narcissist. Oops! Narcissists are on the other end of the spectrum: they haven’t fully differientiated yet, and all “others” are part of “me.” They can be wily characters to deal with and to extricate oneself from, most especially for women. Eventually, I was able to extricate myself without hating on him, but I also realized I didn’t need to hang out with him either, and that hanging out with him, and trying to get along with him, was not ending the self/other war, but enabling an insidious and subtle form of violence that lived in him. One can see the danger of this in the candidacy of Donald Trump, where his supporters inadvertently encourage his narcissistic consciousness.
One strategy of avoiding self/other tension is within embarrassing naive denial cast as New Age virtue — “it’s all good” or “We’re all One” or a pouty, indigant “all lives matter!” in response to #BlackLivesMatter as if by opening to the experience of the Other, a white person is made “less than,” which only serves to demonstrate how deeply the conditioning of straight white male privilege goes — if one isn’t on top, then one must be on the bottom.
Part of ending the self/other war must be about opening to the experience of the Other. This may be an easier task for those of us who have lived in the role of Other, whether part time or full time. But even those who enjoy straight white male privilege feel threatened and Otherized when confronted about their privilege. Perhaps ultimately, there’s no way around the fact that in the self/other war, we all play the roles Self and Other to some degree. May that be a starting point of compassion for those whose lives in the Other role are more dangerous than that of other Others.
Become a Habitat for Endangered Human Qualities
One of the great fears of humans, in this time of collapse, extinction, climate change, etc. is that our species will not survive, though realistically, for many, it’s more about the survival of the individual human being known as “I.” Let’s suppose that along with ‘ the end of the world as we’ve known it’ we are entering ‘the end of humanity as we’ve known it.”
“Gamble everything for love, if you are a true human being.” (Rumi)
What is a true human being? How do you know what is a true human being? Consider that American dream of a human being is a particular experiment. Many live in isolation, deficient in human and other-than-human connection (which makes it easy to head towards fear of the other as the obvious stance to take in life), distanced from the natural earth environment (shelter’s a good thing, but to live surrounded by concrete all the time isn’t: it gets pretty flat and boring). Money replaces meaning. Given the amount of disease and anti-anxiety meds, anti-depressants, and sudden eruptions of mass violence, I think we can say the experiment isn’t working and that the way of life that has been created in America is not good for human beings. One can blame the economy or politics or whatever, but perhaps such matters are secondary symptoms.
Whatever conditioning you have about yourself isn’t all personal or a result of your less than ideal history. It’s also the collective conditioning, and a way of life that works to keep people too busy to feel the deep tenderness of their humanity. Fulfilled human beings make lousy consumers.
What current human qualities will you be relieved to see go? What endangered human qualities do you want to be a habitat for? What banished human qualities do you want to bring home to yourself? What is your most cherished vision of what it means to be human? If we are the art supplies of the Great Mystery, then what is the art human beings can become? How will you walk through this time of Apocalypse as a post-apocalyptic work of art?
Everyone has inner feminine qualities but some of us are in women’s bodies, which sometimes, though certainly not always, makes a difference.
Say ‘icon’ and many Americans will think of sex symbols and pop stars. Think about it more as your inner symbolism and personal mythology. Frida Kahlo comes to mind, as a woman whose self portraiture showed her inner world as much as her outer. Though Frida Kahlo didn’t like being considered a surrealist, I think this is because she came more in contact with the male surrealist ‘club’ than marginalized female ones. The female surrealists often had a more mystical, revealing the interior, approach to their art.
Take this idea one step further into the numinous. What mythopoetic symbols represent you? What qualities are you a temple of? The innate feminine art of iconizing herself has survived mostly in the shalllows of fashion, vanity, and the value of appearance in the marketplace. Take it back down to the depths.
It’s a good practice to ask about this in whatever you encounter in the culture — what is the deeper version of this shallow things you see around you?
Kung Fu of the Human Heart
At one time, I was internally given the task of deepening into love while relinquishing an unhealthy object of love, which you probably know isn’t the prominent way of this culture – a more common practice is to firebomb the discarded object of affection when the subterranean, disowned, shadowy agendas reveal themselves in both self and other. There’s something to be said for the storms of thwarted passion, or the fury of realizing one has opened one’s heart to a jerk of any gender, but such practices are for the less experienced.
The task was given to me as an image of wading through a river of rose petals without bruising a single one, and of kissing a butterfly wing without disturbing a smidgeon of the powder. That kind of delicacy. An impossible task, like those given in fairy tales. Mythic kung fu practitioners learn to run up bamboo, walk without leaving footprints, and strike blows without creasing a sheet of paper.
If you spend any amount of time at all in a practice of ending the self-other war with those others you encounter in your environment, you will find that the self-other war also lives inside you; at least this was the case for me, and I expect I’m not much different than other humans in this country.
An unexpected gift to this practice was the living, pulsing image of my heart as a temple, in my case, a den of rose petals and pelts, a sanctuary that is always available to me.
When I wrote all these down, I had no idea just what knife-edged tasks they truly are. Aspects of the ways I — and by extension many, most of us — have been inculturated to a certain blindness, a certain self-importance, a certain way of being that at times colludes with the status quo even when we think we’re doing otherwise. Point being, don’t ever let go of your internal compass.
To put it in traditional apocalyptic terms: false prophets, a time of chaos, blindness even as truths are unveiled. You can’t trust everything you think. We are all amalgamations of truths and falsehoods.
Use your common and uncommon sense. A note to women: Many women have been taught to defer to male authority figures. Don’t give in to that conditioning. Even with your sisters, don’t give in to the pressure to conform. Be willing to see what you see and know what you know. This might make you unpopular at times, even with yourself.
There are many practices that can contribute to ending the self-other war. For some the meditative disciplines work well. For my part, at the time I wrote this, I felt the need to practice in an embodied way, a woman’s way, a lover’s way. I needed to practice with the aspects of humanity that are endangered.
Eventually I turned towards the meditative disciplines, because Holy Silence is endangered too, and my practices had taken on a kind of masturbatory quality. Yes, I have ease in the imaginal, yes it’s a beautiful place to explore, and yes, nothing lasts forever and it’s important to keep connected with one’s commitment. In my case, I want to wake up as fully as possible in this lifetime.
As a product of a time in the West of desecrating nature, women, and embodiment, my practice is to fall more and more deeply into love with this world, this life, this embodiment. While traditions are important — I have loved and been in relationship with the yogic and internal martial arts for decades — there’s something to be said for practicing ways that directly evoke the imaginal, symbolically literate, dream-wise, aspects of self as a practice of artistry, in response to this time, this moment: this moment of apocalypse in which the fire is one of rage and destruction, or of passion, warmth, nourishment, surrendering oneself to the hypnotic allure of dancing flame.
Jesus said, “I have cast fire upon the world, and see, I am guarding it until it blazes.” (Gospel of Thomas)
next up: Barbie of the Apocalypse