Table of Contents

Meditation

Spontaneous meditation. I was born knowing how to make progress with love. I make progress any time I pay attention to the world, allowing it to act on me. As a child, wide open, I paid attention to the world when it reached out and grabbed me in some way, which was a lot of the time, especially at first. I don't remember most of that but I do remember some of the more vivid moments, moments I now call spontaneous meditation. Decades later, in college, I started learning about meditation: intentional practices supposedly aimed at making progress with love. It took decades of struggle with those practices for me to begin to see that my early spontaneous meditations were the real thing and the intentional practices mostly a waste of time for making progress. But they did have other uses. Recreational drugs put an end to spontaneous meditation when I moved to Kenya at age fourteen. I've never seen anything religious about making progress. It's practical.

Louisiana. I remember three powerful spontaneous meditations I had as a young child in Louisiana. These are the earliest memories I have. I was only two when I had my first encounter with time and death, in the form of a rusty tricycle. When I was three I had a memorable encounter with nature in the form of stump water. When I was about four I had a very intense spontaneous meditation with my dad. I was an energetic little boy, always exploring and getting into things, often including trouble. One day I was being rambunctious in church. Of course you can't really be rambunctious in church, at least not in a Methodist church. But I did my best, fidgeting in my seat and fiddling with stuff in the back of the pew in front: hymnals, offertory envelopes, and those stubby little pencils. I believe the final straw was dropping a hymnal. That can make quite a noise if it lands just right. My dad had had it. He took me by the hand and marched me out of the church. He cut a long twig off a bush that years later I identified as spirea, and gave my legs a good switching. It was warm, as it usually is in Louisiana, and little boys got to wear shorts to church. I remember examining my legs later that day. The switch marks were little red stripes with fat welts on either side; striking. That switching definitely woke me up. It helped me get over the self entitled notion of fairness. Life is not fair in any given lifetime. My starting point in this life is the sum of all that came before.

Marianna. Spontaneous meditation faded in Marianna because of my age. Children are open to love and connection until the ugliness of human culture shuts them. Especially schoolwork. Learning to read and write et cetera doesn't fit well with a child's natural openness to the deeper, nonverbal aspects of life. Schoolwork puts words and ideas front and center. Words and ideas are what I have to get over to meditate. It just doesn't work to try and get over something when you're learning it. Of course words and ideas are indispensable. You can't have culture and art without them. I may not have been having any spontaneous meditations, but I was having rich experiences with both of my parents that prepared me for spiritual work in the future. Like hiking to the river and digging into rooting with my dad; learning to cook and tasting everything with my mom. They gave me a really solid foundation for everything that came after.

Asheville. In Asheville spontaneous meditation started coming back to me. I'd started integrating words with my nonverbal core by writing poetry and prose vignettes. I used my gift of writing, helped give form to my gift of writing, by writing very personal stuff, just for me. I was using my writing to make a little progress with love. I let that go when we moved to Kenya and I got shut down by drugs. It would be almost sixty years before I took that back up, writing during the Covid lockdown, the online posts that turned into these stories. I've finally returned to prose vignettes; that's how I approach each paragraph in writing these stories. Each graf is a simple concrete poem with a graceful curve to the not so ragged right, viewable only if you read my text at the full width of my container, 960px. My little ongoing easter egg. If you ever find a paragraph in here with a truly ragged right, it's a sign of work in progress. Anyway, in Asheville thinking and Leela were no longer necessarily at odds. I had many moments of spontaneous meditation during this part of my life. I've written about a number of these world-stoppers:

Kenya. In Kenya, alcohol and pot conspired to shut down my spontaneous meditations with a little help from tobacco to get things going. It didn't happen immediately. It took the full two years I lived there to shut me down good and proper. I still had a few transcendent moments, like when I encountered a cobra in the coffee, and art on trips through Europe. But eventually the drugs took over and I was stuck with formal meditation for the rest of my fifty-year detour. Traditional formal meditation practices like sitting cross-legged staring at a candle are very slow, laborious ways to make progress with love. Leela gives me active, lively meditations like partner dancing, especially tango. Meditations like writing these stories and cooking and making my kettle tea just right. They are all more effective than formal meditation by orders of magnitude.

Tallahassee. As part of my ministerial training program I got initiated into kriya yoga. Kriya was interesting but it also felt unbalancing. As I mulled that over an image came to me. It was an illustration in a book I had about Taoist magic. It showed an ouroboros inside a human figure. I applied that circular image to how I was doing kriya yoga, and the feeling changed from unbalance to subtle pleasure. I loved how that felt. But the subtle pleasure still felt unbalanced because it felt like too much. It was more than I could handle. But that pleasure intrigued me, and I held onto it somewhere in my depths till thirty years later in Seattle. When Leela spoke to me in 2006, she pointed to that subtle pleasure as a clue: this is what I'm looking for to guide me to the right kind of meditation: the simple pleasure of being. I wrote my first website about that pleasure. I found that pleasure any time I tuned into my natural breathing rhythm and paid attention deeply. The subtle pleasure of breathing launched the voyage of discovery that led, link by link, to where I am now.

The taint of holiness. I got interested in holy stuff very early on. The First Methodist Church of Marianna was where I first made the connection between church and art: I got to sing and do craft projects. I got into children's choir when I was six, and I channelled El Greco in vacation bible school. I never saw a connection between church and my early spontaneous meditations. My rhapsodies in nature weren't holy, they were magic, my own private magic, and they were alive. Brilliantly alive, whereas church was mostly dead. There were parts I liked: singing and jewel tone cellophane. But the jealous god that even bland Methodist preachers preached was a cross between nasty and irrelevant. I was done with church for good by the time I turned twelve. I didn't make the break for a couple more years. Moving to Kenya gave me the breathing space to do that. Soon after that I started finding god in art again, in the form of poetry. I got back into holy stuff in college via tai chi. I enjoyed tai chi, but I mostly did it because I thought it was cool, not a good reason to practice anything. Leela had foreseen this, and gave me help in the form of increasingly severe knee pain, not during but after I practiced tai chi. The year after college, my girlfriend and I got all holy via new age religion and the meditation it came packaged with. But the holy forms of meditation I tried out were never what I loved doing. There was no love, just duty. Orthodoxy. This thing I was supposed to do. The first thing I got from an authority figure that felt magic was the dance assignment TH gave me while I was still living in Tallahassee. I loved that and poured myself into it. It made me ecstatic. But it was a one-shot deal, designed to plug a hole in me. It wasn't ongoing. I fell in love with running, but running turned out to be an addictive drug, ultimately self destructive. I got the same kind of warning I did with tai chi, only this time it took surgery to fix. None of the ongoing sustainable meditations I tried had love in them until I found dancing. Now I have three entwined meditations I dearly love: living my daily life exactly as Leela guides me to via muscle testing and body sensing, partner dancing, and this writing. Now, all I do is meditation, every day all day.

Meditation in daily life. None of the meditation I do now looks like meditation. It's been that way since sometime in 2008. Instead of sitting on the floor or some other version of formal meditation, which I was never any good at, I use my internal connection with the pleasure of making progress to turn everyday activities into meditation. Like walking, cooking, eating, cleaning, lying in bed. I meditate a lot in bed: when I'm ready for sleep, when I'm about to rise, and whenever I'm wakeful in the middle of the night, which is fairly often. Listening to classical music is a form of meditation that was of immense value to me in the early months of the pandemic. Classical music helped me grasp my place in the world and accept my situation so I could benefit from enforced isolation. It's been of extraordinary value in dealing with all this. Tango and other forms of partner dancing are my favorite meditations of all.

Body engagement. Leela has started teaching me the practice of body engagement. It's similar to body sensing but much more strenuous. So much so I have to consciously relax my muscles, reminding myself that this is an exercise in focus and intention, not a muscular exercise. I mostly do it lying in bed, snuggled deliciously under the covers, but I've also done it while walking or sitting at my desk. I focus my attention on my whole body but then crank that up by consciously engaging my body intently until I feel a particular sensation, like a warmth or glow spreading through my body. At first I could only do it for a few minutes or a few steps, but I'm slowly extending and strengthening my conscious powers of engagement. I feel it most powerfully if I do the practice as I'm waking up, while I can still feel Leela's presence burning in me like sweet fire.