For Dominique

DG 2nd Year 2

July 27th was the day we met

July 27th was the day we parted

Many, many days and many, many nights

Fell between those two same days in July

                            ~

Now 2 years have passed since your last breath

Many, many deaths and many, many lives

Remembering, Rejoicing, Loving, Mourning

                            ~

Simon says: “Tomorrow is another day!

Live your life and be happy, or at least work at it.”

Is what he texted me last night

                            ~

Now the children are parents and the parents are babes

Many, many days and many, many lives

Between those two same days in July

Today is July 27th

                            ~

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Remembering How to Fly

Photo © Hane Selmani 2015

I think that all of us are like eagles who have forgotten that we know how to fly. The teachings are reminding us who we are and what we can do. They help us notice that we’re in a nest with a lot of old food and old diaries, excrement and stale air. From when we were very young we’ve had this longing to see those mountains in the distance and experience that big sky and the vast ocean, but somehow we got trapped in that nest, just because we forgot that we knew how to fly. We are like eagles, but we have on underwear and pants and shirt and socks and shoes and a hat and coat and boots and mittens and a Walkman and dark glasses, and it occurs to us that we could experience that vast sky, but we’d better start taking off some of this stuff. So we take off the coat and the hat and it’s cold, but we know that we have to do it, and we teeter on the edge of the nest and we take off. Then we find out for ourselves that everything has to go. You just can’t fly when you are wearing socks and shoes and coats and pants and underwear. Everything has to go.

Chapter 22 ‘Train Wholeheartedly’ – Start Where You Are, by Pema Chödrön, The final chapter

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Angels & Demons: Inside & Out

“It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.”

Buddha


Knight, Death and the Devil – Albrecht Dürer

I have more often experienced angels and demons as entities which possess or embody me, than as external forces or entities that one can see or feel. Part of my upbringing wants me to classify them as states of consciousness and states of unconsciousness, something I would agree with more easily in terms of my own battles with the inner demons. Some of these negative entities are easily recognizable through manifestations like addiction, jealousy, envy and other similar behaviors. I discover them, usually after some gross “misconduct” on my own part – this could be self-betrayal or the destruction of that which I loved most dearly or sought to protect. Consciousness here tends to be what has helped me first recognize, then challenge these demons.

My addiction to cigarettes took me years to manage and was only brought within my control after a very in depth study of my state of being with each cigarette I smoked – until I reached a point of choice. This worked for about 12 years but when life took me through some rough terrain the compulsion reappeared and I smoked again. What was interesting with this relapse and the devil in question – is that I knew it and had conquered it in the past, so letting go was less of a study and more a question of choosing to stop.

My experience of inner demons is quite different from my encounters with the not necessarily human outer entities that have confronted me. Two of these experiences occurred at night when I was alone in a family vacation home near the ocean.

The first time, I was sleeping in an end room of the house facing a grove of trees. This room was strange in that it’s the only room I’ve ever been in with black curtains. They were black with tiny colored flowers, but black, and somehow disturbing. The curtains to one of the windows was partially open, with a gap of about a foot. At some point in the night I awoke and looked over at the window and saw the most ghastly face staring in at me. A face which had been mutilated violently; gashed, bloody and angry. I was horrified! I turned on the lights and closed the curtains, for the first time, relieved that they were black. Was it the ghost of the young man apparently murdered by his father and rumored to be buried in the back woods behind my family’s home? I don’t know, but I never slept in that room again.

The second time took place in the fall about two years later. I was alone at the opposite end of the house in the master bedroom. I could hear the ocean waves crashing on the beach and the fog horns calling to each other in the dark shrouded night. I slept. Not long after midnight, I awoke in absolute terror, pinned to the bed and completely unable to move. A terrible presence surrounded me and held me down without hands. I dreaded what was to come, feeling that “it” was deciding what to do with me. The terror and paralysis violently gripped me tighter and tighter.

Time stopped. Flooded with fear, aware of nothing else, I gasped for breath, though tried not to make a sound.

Time resumed – I was held, could not move. I was prisoner of this unseen thing, with a growing awareness of my current situation. But, I was neither dead nor destroyed.

I don’t know if I prayed or if the second force came of its own accord, but eventually I felt the very clear and distinct presence of another energy. It was angelic. Almost immediately, it began to give me the distinct impression of my Great Aunt, a woman who had crossed to the other side only a month or so earlier; after a series of seizures followed by two months in a coma. She had been buried on the island weeks’ earlier, a few miles from the house. My Great Aunt was the antithesis of physical strength yet a powerhouse of inner vitality, spiritual, intelligent and playful. We had become close in the last two years of her life, as I’d become one of her caregivers.

I sensed her presence come in and wash over me and the force which held me like a warm wave of light that enveloped all and everything in its path. It was irresistible, soothing and calming. My muscles relaxed, I was able to move my arms, my legs and turn my head. The demon was gone. The angel lingered. Not moving from the bed, I gave thanks with all that I had and fell into a deep restful sleep. Was the spirit of my Great Aunt a guardian angel come to help me at a time of need?

What was it that had me shift my right leg and body just out of harm’s way as I wiped-out on my motorcycle at 60mph on the Westside Highway in New York? Wearing only shorts, a helmet and flip-flops this accident could have been my last, yet I walked away with only a skinned elbow. Most recently something had me step off the road onto the sidewalk with my partner one second before a London bus would have run us into the pavement. And what about all the inexplicable coincidences which led to her and I meeting in the first place?

Whether these subtle directives both good and evil came from a force outside myself or from a greater inner awareness remains a mystery. I believe that angels and demons manifest in me and through me. Personifying them through my own inner battles, a deceased family member, biblical or mythical figures; though interesting, is not essential. They are both inside and out.

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The Tree

How many days and nights did I walk down this path?  Sometimes for a cigarette, sometimes for food, sometimes just to touch you, stand beneath your branches, cry gently for the pain of those suffering or dying nearby. Now you too are gone – bleached earth where roots and trunk once were, gaping sky in the void of your absence. Of all the trees here, why were you chosen?  Why was this the first thing I saw as I arrived back at the hospital this morning?  Change is constant – why am I so slow to accept?

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Love–Sustainably Free?–I think so

These past days I’ve felt as if I were gripping a fast moving knife from the wrong end and moment after moment the blade rips through my fingers as memories flash through my mind interspersed with new impressions and situations.  It is terrible.  It is wonderful. 

This poem which I stumbled upon fortuitously tonight, riveted me to my chair – brilliant, terrible, delightful:

bring it all down on the side of love.

http://www.rebellesociety.com/2013/06/28/bring-it-all-down-on-the-side-of-love/

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thank you Jeanette LeBlanc

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Remembering: Time, Zeit, Tiempo, Tempo, Temps!

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Dominique’s spirit left her body one year ago today.  It is quite difficult to fathom; impossible.  The body is gone.  She is not.  It feels like yesterday. It feels like forever and a day.

Something reminded me of this video a couple of days ago.  It is probably one of her last story-choreography’s and performances; performed for Dance Fremont’s students in Seattle on January 15, 2012.

Timelessly she captures and releases time.

Video:  Time, Zeit, Tiempo, Tempo, Temps!

Summoning, sensing, searching – I return to Bad Salzhausen in Germany, just to be in the physical place where the physical being ceased to be animated by spirit.  I come to honor what was and that which still is.  I come to select a tree, a chestnut tree, to be planted in the healing parks and gardens, with mystical hares and elusive deer.  I come for something else, though don’t know what it is.

Arriving in Switzerland earlier in the week, I have had time to reflect, to be, to feel Europe, Dominique’s presence here and to be with our family and friends.

Often we feel alone – but are we?

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« read between the lines »

Garçon s’il vous plait, do you have the ‘time’?   Bitte noch ein Apfelschorle.

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Your Song

I’m sitting in a café working on a talk for tomorrow. I’m focused, in the groove, it’s coming together.

Suddenly the background music creeps through the ambient noise and capture’s my attention, a woman’s voice, harmony and melody that’s pleasing and familiar – the words cut through: “How wonderful life is while you’re in the world.” An electric shock ripples through me, systems fail, I ache, I yearn, I cry.

It was wonderful. Your presence permeates me.  It is still wonderful, but so, so different. I miss you and the form you once had. I love you in the forms you now take; a song, a bird, a butterfly, a cloud, a star…

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Reflections: what is and what was

Garçon : Please play that song again and bring me a cloud-cup of lunar-moths with stars in their butterfly eyes. I’ll be here for a while.

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un-nested

HummingBirdNest
18 March 2014
Empty-Nest
24 March 2014
Skeleton-Nest
29 March 2014

I used to laugh at a joke with a Priest, a Pastor and a Rabi arguing about “when ‘life’ begins.” The first two responses are predictable and the punch line comes from the Rabi who argues that “the beginning of life is when the kids are out of the house and the cat and the dog have died.”

It is incomplete. I’ve lived this; the empty nest, the building of a new one far away, it was great, but now. . .

. . . when one’s life partner dies too soon, always too soon, something breaks, shatters, sends bleeding shards in all directions, hews and hacks out chunks; cleaves rifts unrepairable. The joke turns on its head and destroys more than one ever thought possible and yet live.

Ironically as she was dying my life force grew – mystified by a growing hunger, physical, sexual, adventurous, I thirsted for life. Unable to turn the tide and infuse this energy into her, it continued to grow in me. And then, those infinitely gentle last moments, like a wolf-pup trying to growl, her last breaths, then silence, peace, stillness. Hours later her open mouth, of its own accord, closed into a divine smile and so remained until I left her body three days later to be cremated.

The crack widened as I turned my back and walked away. It began when I reached the parking lot, the ‘noneness’, my pieces began to break, the bleeding shards exploded, landed.

Returning to our home in Singaporean from my last trip two weeks ago, Mila, our angle-house-maid on her weekly visit, showed me a new Hummingbird nest, with two eggs in it, built high in the bamboo branches on our bedroom balcony. Though I’d been home for two days already and spent hours writing beneath it, I’d not seen it. I was overjoyed, became cautious, changed balconies for my writing and watched from a distance. Two days of storms and high-winds now assailed us. The plant and nest thrashed back and forth in the wind and torrential rains. The birds were gone. In the calm of the next morning, I climbed on stool to check – any empty nest, delicate, small, built with care and soft stuff – even Dominique’s long black hair – was in its fabric. It was a joy to behold, yet terrible in its gaping void. Bereft.

Over the last week, many birds have come, and I return to check. There is no nest; only a bare skeleton of what once was, the fabric, her hair, gone, perhaps to be used in a safer place, away from such winds and rain amplified by the height of my 8th floor perch; without the barren man living between worlds and I chose to believe to more fertile grounds.

Is this not recycling at its greatest? And subtle guidance for the path: there is no nest, though the skeleton remains, the fabric must be reused, distributed, shared and new nests built by all of us.

Garçon : « Eggnog » avec une assiette de petits biscuits s’il vous plait !

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The Ides of March

SQ15 – flying from San Francisco to Seoul and continuing on to Singapore

The cycles are completing and the season’s changing. 15 years ago today I began working for a large US multi-national; a technology provider in the Seattle area, which was dominating the world with its products and growing at exponential rates as it achieved its existing mission of “a PC on every desktop.” This cycle soon ended when the internet bubble burst about a year later. Growth (of the stock price, not the company or its market penetration) ended and the company mission changed.

I had never considered them as noteworthy, was leery of their products, though used them extensively and I was curious to see what might transpire while in the company. Might I make it better? I had been challenged by 6 of 8 interviewers to describe “what do you want to do here”? Such wonderful empowerment in that question and not a question I was ready for, though a question which has lived in me for the past 15 years. On this day my cycle in the oceanographic sciences ended. I’ve held various jobs in the company but the focus has almost always been the same: the essence of the company’s new mission – “to enable people and businesses around the world to realize their full potential” with my own added twist of doing so with harmony and through more harmonious human relations in all that we do.

I had a technical role which focused on enterprise management and the company’s engagement, development and use of standards. The external-facing aspects of my role I loved. The internal ones were hard as the development environment was hostile and challenging. I used to joke with my counterparts from our competitors at the standards meetings how much nicer they were than those I worked with at home. I had my work cut out for me between this and 3 adolescent children at home still struggling to adapt to the United States as they were pulled in various directions by the turbulent growth and change within themselves and facing discrimination and prejudice for the first time, now that they were in “The Land of the Free.” How sickeningly ironic… I had the best companion and partner one could ever hope for in my wife. It was hard, it was new, it was exciting. Today, it is difficult to imagine that that was 15 years ago, so much has changed and yet also so little…

This has been a year of milestones. I entered my 50th year, my daughter her 30th, my wife’s soul left her body after an 18 month journey with cancer, I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary alone with my daughter and son-in-law, 4 years completed in Singapore and now my 15th anniversary with the company. What’s next?

Given the all-pervasive, engulfing and sometimes intrusive nature of the ‘large organization’ into one’s personal life, the blurring of the lines between personal and profession so prevalent today and the impact of one’s profession upon one’s sense of identity, this last milestone carries more weight than perhaps I would have chosen it to. Given that I am now alone its weight seems heavier. At the same time, it is also liberating as if yet another cycle was complete. 15 is a good number.

My sense of identity, though encroached has also been deeply enriched through living into the power of this mission, which now is indeed my own. Is it still theirs? At the same time my identity has also been shattered from the opposite side with the departure of my mate. I find myself in a period of redefinition, with an odd and sometimes troubling attachment to my new social status of “widower” – an identity I resent and abhor yet also to which I cling. It is real and undeniable and a reminder of the finality of our mortality and the end of that cycle. CTO is good one too – but that’s my job, not who I am and it does not capture my mission stated above. What am I? Who am I? What have I become? Why am I here? What is my purpose? It’s as if I were starting over – is that sustainably free? Is it having my cake and eating it too? What an inordinate cost… Or is it just the cycle of Saṃsāra…?

HummingBirdNest

A new Humming Bird Nest discovered in the bamboo on the balcony when I reached home in Singapore

Garçon : une assiette de lait chaud pour le chat noir qui traine au soleil sur le trottoir et un whiskey-double pour moi s’il vous plait – c’est mon anniversaire de boulot – et je ne bois plus. . .

…les nuages sous l’avion pleuvent des larmes géantes sur le Pacifique qui est colérique avec ses veilles vagues d’hiver maintenant frôlé par des nouveaux vents du printemps. Pourquoi on l’appelle « Pacifique ? » . . . les saisons changent en perpétuité, un cycle fini, un autre commence…

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Simplicity

Much has changed in my life since last I posted to this blog, and today I find myself in the midst of yet another crossing.  Some of the shipmates are the same, but the vessel is different and this time the ocean is less clearly defined, the shores we head to as well, unknown.  Yet onwards we sail!   Finding my bearings without a compass is hard. Following the wind is easy, if you trust it.  Why do sometimes we stop trusting ? 

I’ve met new people and rediscovered some books from my childhood which have provided some clues. I have also discovered new ones thanks to the additions to the crew we sail with today.  Their guidance – simplicity, beauty, magic, trust, focusing on that which matters and accepting that which you cannot see, yet know; the magic of life and it’s process regardless of the circumstances…

George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin and the The Princess and Curdie were read to me by my mother when I was a child. I’ve reread them both with the hunger of that child which was and its remnants still deep inside me. These words jumped out at me from the beginning of the 2nd book:

“…as Curdie grew, he grew at this time faster in body than in mind – with the usual consequences, that he was getting rather stupid – one of the chief signs of which was that he believed less and less in things he had never seen.  At the same time I do not think he was ever so stupid as to imagine that this was a sign of superior faculty and strength of mind.  Still he was becoming more and more a miner, and less and less a man of the upper world where the wind blew.  On his way to and from the mine he took less and less notice of the bees and butterflies, moths and dragonflies, the flowers and the brooks and the clouds.  He was gradually changing into a commonplace man.

There is a difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection.  One of the latter sort comes at length to know at once whether a thing is true the moment it comes before him; one the former class grows more and more afraid of being taken in, so afraid of it that he takes himself in altogether, and comes at length to believe in nothing but his dinner: to be sure of a thing with him is to have it between his teeth.

Curdie was not in a very good way, then, at that time…” (The Princess and Curdie, George MacDonald, pgs. 11-12, Puffin Classics)

We often burry our heads in the mines, our smartphones and that which is practical or between our teeth  and may often miss the beauty which is all around us. A storm itself is a thing; something of awe: one’s shipmates too – how can we live so close and so intimately with each yet cease to notice?  I ask myself often this question even about myself, seeing how little I seem to understand myself, going from reaction to reaction, day after day.  We must seriously contemplate ways to keep running a parallel existences and as Gene O’Kelly suggests focus on more than just one “bank account”?

“Simplicity is in such scare supply, I thought, yet so many people would benefit by it, be transformed by it.  Looking at how some of the people around me had managed their lives, I lamented that they had not been blessed as I had, with this jolt to life.  They had no real motivation or clear timeline to stop what they were so busy at, to step back, to ask what exactly they were doing with their life.  Many of them had money; many of them had more money than they needed.  Why was it so scary to ask themselves one simple question:  Why am I doing what I’m doing?  Part of me understood the vortex, of course.  Part of me understood that they couldn’t stop, particularly if they’d enjoyed success, because if they did stop, they would stop being relevant.  I understood. Completely.

But being relevant was not relevant.

At some point – a point it’s preferable that you chose – it’s time to transition.  To prepare for the final stage.  I had many friend that I worried would ignore that moment for too long, try to stay relevant for too long, and then forever lose the opportunity to control the choice.  ‘Growing old is a helpless hurt,"’  Willie Mays said at the end of his career, after a bitter final year in which he played like a shadow of a shadow of himself.

It’s coming, for sure.  It’s going to be hard, for sure.  Some people out there – not enough, but some – understand that you start putting money away now, so that it can grow to be sufficient for later in life, when you need it.

why wouldn’t you start doing that now with something at least as important as your money – your soul?” (Chasing Daylight, Eugene O’Kelly, pgs. 132-133, McGraw Hill, 2008)

Photo: © MThatcher “Reflection” Inya Lake, Yangon, Myanmar 

This too falls squarely into the notion of having one’s cake and eating it too.  Nurturing the soul and nurturing one’s practical requirements, need not be mutually exclusive.  Do not allow your mining (whatever that means for you) to distract you or engulf you to the extent that you neglect your soul (whatever that means for you too).  

Simplicity requires eliminating that which is unimportant while maintaining focus on that which is most important, or that which matters.  That said, we are complex beings able to exist in multiple spheres – never forget this – yet keep it simple in how you approach it.  There may not be a resolution between these worlds, rather mutual growth and endless potential…

Happy Solstice!

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