Enlightenment?

dried leaf falling on ground

I meditated so deeply today that my body disappeared.

And I floated up out of my chair, up out of my office, leaving that small square of darkness behind. As I floated up I could see all the rooms, my daughters sleeping, my wife shifting in our bed, the dog by the window, the empty kitchen.

I could see through walls, see in the dark. And I kept going up.

More houses, my neighbors, some sleeping, some not sleeping, some fighting, some embracing. There were the cars on the road, the streetlights turning off, doors opening and closing, keys coming out of pockets.

I kept going up, now seeing the whole town, the parts I’ve never been to, the doors I’ll never knock on. Covers rolling back, breakfast burning, phones aglow.

But seeing into those homes was hard because a soft voice was telling me that now those people had to be considered.

Still higher, now other towns, other states, the ocean, the edges of places I cannot recognize, different faces, colors, textures, gestures, words, smells rising up and reaching me.

A little anxiety about my altitude, how far my feet are from the ground, that I’m starting to forget my neighbor’s names.

So much joy and suffering in these little boxes, these separate hearts, moving from room to room.

I close my eyes, reject the gift, allow the lightness to leave — no — I will it to.

And I descend.

Back in my room, hand on my heart.

It’s easier in the box, simpler on the ground.

I think that’s why we stay here.

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Politicians Feed Us

Our Nation’s Capital

I watched an hour of the election certification hearing last night and came to this conclusion:

Politicians should not be on TV.

Maybe then, they’d stick to making a case, instead of presenting non-facts with practiced flamboyance and one-liners.

But, oh, they are very clear on their goal: it is not to sway the judge, nor convince the other party that they are right. Rather, it is to infect the minds of their constituents by way of 1-minute sound bytes, diced up and served cold on the Internet.

Like marketers and drill sergeants, politicians have learned that the key to brainwashing is repetition. Persuasion is in the bass of your voice, not the truth of your message.

And, while we need information more than a great performance, we’re addicted to entertainment and we’re short on time so we bundle up the two and binge, binge, binge.

We prefer our pictures to move. We like our bedtime stories read to us.

And we eat our food alone and in little pieces.

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The Honor of Being Slept On

man laying on bed beside dog

I woke up yesterday, was wide awake. I had ideas that needed to get out, creative energy asking for daylight.

But my arm was under my wife. I gave a slow pull but she didn’t respond. She was out.

So I laid there.

For an hour.

I thought about things, worked some stuff out. She slept. It was good.

My daughters sleep on me too, during movies usually.

It’s the ultimate trust, like a dog showing you its belly.

So, I rarely move. It’s always been this way.

In my late teens, coming back from camping, a girl fell asleep in my lap. I was so proud. I just sat there, pins and needles, thinking about what was to come after she opened her eyes.

And another girlfriend who had demons, who would only face away while sleeping on my arm. She would eventually curl in. Another proud moment.

And me, at 22ish, reconciling with my dad after the divorce. Me, a supposed grown-ass man with a degree, loose from scotch and forgiveness. I dropped my head on my patient dad’s shoulder, closed my eyes, and gave way completely to being his son.

(I haven’t asked but I’m sure he didn’t mind not moving the rest of the night.)

There are always more things to do, good, rational reasons to get up and get going.

But the act of staying put, remaining under and around another, listening to someone else’s breaths against our own while the world does its thing – that’s what we forget to do most often.

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I Love You Goodbye

love, valentine, romantic
Photo by Nietjuh on Pixabay

I’ve always had trouble saying I love you.

It was a thing with girlfriends: me not being able to say it.

I don’t think I’m alone in this.

We can write it down well, we send shiny red hearts over the Internet, we drop it into the end of a phone call like punctuation,

but, admit it, we struggle a bit with eye contact when we say it out loud.

Maybe that’s why we choose to save it for the end of things: airports, funerals, the end of a phone call, the last moment in the car ride – hand on the handle, lobbing our love bomb before taking cover.

Oh what we miss when it hits.

It’s a strange desire, the need to flee from the purest joy we can create.

Perhaps we should start saying it sooner, pairing it with hello instead of goodbye, savoring the explosion, watching the earth tremble, the seas rise, and our precious hearts beat.

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The Secret Behind Mama’s Smile

It was Christmas morning and a thought was forming

inside my little-boy brain,

as I lay in a heap of wrapping so deep

my heart felt a little pain.

“Mama, I’m sorry” my voice was quite jarring.

“With presents I’ve come up short.

“You gave me a ton and I only gave one,

and it’s not even close to store-bought.”

She sat up and there was a flash of her camera

a smile so wide it surprised

for she’d just been divorced, now alone in the house

her and me, me and her, I realized.

“Dear child don’t you worry, I’m enjoying the flurry

in my heart as I go on believing

that one day you will have a heart that shall fill

’cause Giving gives more than Receiving.”

Oh the crazy things a mom’s heart will sing.

She can’t possibly mean all of that.

I gave her a mug, I thought with a shrug;

she must not want me to feel bad.

Many winters since then, it’s Christmas again.

I’ve gotten my share of mugs

and things I don’t need, not another tie please,

as the wrapping spills over the rug.

I sit back in the din, in the house that I’m in.

the days piled up like the gifts

and my mom far away while her grandkids all play

my thoughts, without trying, they drift.

Such love in this life, more than pain more than strife.

I sit with my camera and tea.

Oh mom you were right, my heart is aflight!

I am full, we’re the same, you and me.

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Done with Oppression

silhouette of woman standing on beach during sunset

I’m done with stories of oppression — Twelve Years of a Slave, The Piano, The Handmaid’s Tale…

I need no more evidence of our ugliness. I know it’s there. It’s so there.

And I don’t need what comes after that either: vengeful violence of a hero, a bloody and sinister vindication wrapped around triumph.

Violence is used like a Vegas sign to draw us in and justify the second violent act, and there is always a second violent act.

But I am already justified. I am already motivated. I have my weighted bag of hard-earned ghost stories.

So show me a different ending, the one after the last episode: sun shining into an open window, a circle of people standing patiently aware of their own failings, watching a birth, a new growth, fingers unfurling, soft and unlike their own.

Hands far from shackles.

Mind unbounded.

New eyes opening, using the light differently, writing the sequel so easily, before uttering a word or taking a step.

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Changing People’s Minds

Person standing in boat

When we challenge someone’s core beliefs — their religion, their politics (which are often one and the same) — we threaten their worldview.

Our comments cut the line to their anchor.

And, somehow, we expect them to thank us for this.

No one wants to drift into the storm, which is why we grip our ropes so tightly and stay to the shore.

What might happen if we let go, if we allow our lines to be cut?

What parts of the sea might we discover?

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Love & The Selection Process

I often wonder how I got with my wife.

We’re super compatible in so many ways.

And yet, I must admit, I originally noticed her at that barbecue

because she was hot.

Well, maybe there was more to it.

She wore blue jeans not a skirt.

Boots not heels.

She was working the room (or the yard as it were), painting smiles on passersby.

No name brands.

A cool long, suede jacket a cowboy could wear.

Her hair wasn’t done, wasn’t crunchy or full. It was just there.

She laughed wonderfully. Naturally.

And when we talked for the first time, it was like a waterslide.

No friction,

going everywhere together effortlessly.

Yeah, I was lost in her eyes

but I would have noticed if the flow wasn’t there.

So maybe love isn’t just an impulsive arrow going through.

Maybe it’s a bunch of little pieces,

coming together.

Flecks of stone and wood and glass swirling up off the ground

to create something

beautiful

complex

and able to hold things.

Fate, love, joy, peace, magic…

Maybe there’s more going on,

a blueprint designed in the blink of an eye

an algorithm being written

dutifully evaluating the physics of the scaffolds that will become our towers,

a massive amount of computation

going on

in the background

all at once

while I contemplate her lips.

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The Underground Prison We Put Ourselves In…

Monochrome Prison Cell

Humans are strange. Our way of dealing with stress is to summon more of it.

When we’re caught in a tough situation or we get a cold or our luck is different than usual, we tend to say something like:

“This kind of stuff doesn’t happen to me…”
“I’m not the kind of person who…”
“I’m not like this…”

Well, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but YES YOU ARE.

Right now, you are.

The stress you’re under is bad enough; don’t add another layer to it by bringing in denial and self-loathing. That’s like adding more bars to your underground prison cell, more shadow to your cave.

Because, eventually, you’re going to want to break free, right? And then you’re going to have to saw through those bars. You’re going to have to dig through that dirt. So why create more barriers?

When stress comes at you next time and surrounds you, suffocates you, do something unexpected: say hello.

Reach out and touch the wall of the cave.

It is there, you are experiencing it, that’s the first step to your jail break – recognizing you’re in jail, both the good news and the bad.

But here’s more good news for you:

That stress you feel, those walls that create the darkness, they are separate from you.

Knowing this is the key to your escape.

One final piece of advice: Instead of digging in the dirt and sawing through the bars to go back the way you came, just extend your arms in the darkness, trail your fingertips along the walls, and find the door.

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Tired Not Tired

Shallow focus photo of woman leaning on doorway

It’s okay that you’re tired at the end of the day.

You’ve worked hard. It takes a lot. Mentally. Physically.

You’re human!

Up and down is our way forward.

Just because you’re tired, doesn’t mean you have to rethink your life.

Instead, when you recognize you’re tired, just do something that will make you untired.

Focus on gaining your energy back, not on wishing it was always there.

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