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Posts Tagged ‘automatic writing’

Liminal consciousness is that odd state when we emerge from sleep but not fully. In this state, we cannot be sure if our experience was dream or reality. In a real way, this is the truest state that we can experience. The answer to the question: Did it happen or did I dream, is yes. Such is the story of our lives. The liminal state of mind is a perfect rendering of our existential dilemma. We are and yet we are not.

Mind creates moments of compelling and credible theater that are indistinguishable from “real” events. For mind, they are certainly real. We have all the emotions we would in the scenario conjured in the dream state. My wife dreamt yesterday that she heard mens voices somewhere in the house as she slept in it alone while I traveled. She awoke and listened and wasnt sure if she had imagined the voices, or if she had heard them. She locked the door and couldn’t sleep for the rest of the night.

I dreamt some time ago that I was falsely arrested and awoke to fear that criminal charges hung over me. On another occasion, I heard the voice of my mother, now deceased, calling my name. It was audible; clear as a bell. I experienced it as coming into my ears from outside my room. Dreaming or real?

The character of Segismundo in the play, “Life is A Dream” ( La Vida es Sueno) by Pedro Calderon de la Barca, says, at the close of the play:

I dream that I am here
of these imprisonments charged,
and I dreamed that in another state
happier I saw myself.
What is life? A frenzy.
What is life? An illusion,
A shadow, a fiction,
And the greatest profit is small;
For all of life is a dream,
And dreams, are nothing but dreams.

Each day, I imagine what people are thinking. I hear their thoughts and those thoughts are mine. Are they thinking these thoughts too, imagining mine? I interact with people who share my language, yet do I know if they hear what I say as I hear it?

On holidays, the air is different. Saturdays are very different from Sundays and most certainly both are different from Mondays and Fridays. Of course, they are all just days. The day doesn’t know that it’s Saturday. The day is the day, and yet it isn’t.

The diurnal cycle defines so much of life. Night follows day but that isn’t real either. The Sun always shines somewhere. Night is always present somewhere. The sun’s rising and setting are not real, but a mere convention. I approach my next birthday. I am a year older. Right? Meaning what? We enter our forties and we think differently about our lives. We hit the fifties and we say “more han half of my life is behind me.” Says who?

We dream ourselves alive. We dream ourselves happy. We dream ourselves sad. We dream ourselves into states of  anxiety. We dream of endings. What we prophesy comes true.

When am I dreaming and when am I wake? Maybe I am awake AND dreaming now.

Oh my! I am confused.

Or am I?

© Brother Anthony Thomas and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Rousseau's Dream

So much of life is fantasy. We delude ourselves, collude with the self, and allude the Self. We play with existential dilemmas, anguish over them, turn ourselves inside-out, and hold ourselves too often incompetent in the face of life’s drama. This is the dark side of our imaginative capacities. We are creative spirits and we delight in the construction of new worlds including those in which we are hero and anti-hero. This is all thoroughly beautiful as long as we stay in touch with what we are doing.

So, where’s the problem? The biggest source of our suffering is rooted in forgetting that we made it all up. It was Plato who said: ” All is remembering.”

I am a novel full of intersecting plots and diverse characters ( from simple to complex, wise to foolish, grand to petty, beautiful to ugly, well-meaning and kind to selfish and misanthropic), places ( real, imagined, and an amalgam of the two), and times (the present, a distant future, or an, as-if remembered, past). This is the Kabuki theater of the mind and the manufacture of selves.

So, it’s no wonder that we love going to the theater and the movies, and enjoy the art of story-telling and having stories told to us. The state of play of our condition can be perhaps best assessed by watching the changing face of the Best Seller Lists, what makes it big at the box office, what thrives and what dies in dramatic television series. It is all the projected stuff of our nature externalized on paper, celluloid/ acetate, stage, or digital media.

So what do we then do when our own stories of self intersect with those of others, and the grand collective, interactive story that our cultures and world is ever actively weaving? What are we to do when we find ourselves caught up in challenges that we didn’t make, but that others and other forces seemingly conjure up for us?

  1. Think Less, Move More: It would be good to dance. If you are able, dance, free form or otherwise. Get lost in movement and let the cognitive circuits cool down. It can be as simple as a brisk walk, but a dance with more complex movement would be best. Tai chi or Yoga would also fit the bill.
  2. Leap To Faith: It is important to take a leap and put the logical machinery aside. Note that this is not a leap “OF” faith, or blind belief, but a leap “TO” faith, a choice to suspend analysis and go with gut instinct. If writing, switch to poetry. If not, vocalize what you feel, and know that you know what to do even if you think you don’t.
  3. Consult the Sacred Scribe Within: Many have discovered the virtues of “proprioceptive writing,’ automatic writing, or stream of consciousness writing and these are powerful tools. In addition, paying close attention to dreams, what Erich Fromm once referred to as the “forgotten language” in his book of the same name, is perfect practice. In doing the latter, watch the images. Remember, that the one who writes your dreams, the Divine Inner scribe, the Beloved, already knows all the secrets and wants to show them to you.
  4. Laugh: Find cause to really laugh because the only cure for the tragic in life, as Shakespeare knew so well, is high comedy.

American poet Walt Whitman sums it up beautifully in his “Song of Myself“:

51

The past and present wilt–I have fill’d them, emptied them.
And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.

Listener up there! what have you to confide to me?
Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening,
(Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a minute longer.)

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

I concentrate toward them that are nigh, I wait on the door-slab.

Who has done his day’s work? who will soonest be through with his supper?
Who wishes to walk with me?

Will you speak before I am gone? will you prove already too late?

52

The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains of my gab
and my loitering.

I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

The last scud of day holds back for me,
It flings my likeness after the rest and true as any on the shadow’d wilds,
It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.

I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,
I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.

In telling the tale of ourselves, let us write the story forward with exuberance.  Embrace the grays and shadows as punctuating edges and frames for our colors. Let us abandon ourselves to the weaving we do on our looms of song and image and weave from the heart.

It is a great solace to know that the grand writer, song-maker, choreographer, and artist who resides in our souls, who is our soul, already knows how it all turns out. We pose the riddles for which we already have the answers but, as a matter of right order and creative decorum, it is a compromise with infinity that we feign ignorance of them ( forgetting) lest the Agatha Christie mystery of life lose its suspenseful and electrifying savor.

© Brother Anthony Thomas and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Psuedo-Dionyseus, the Areopagite

The muse draws me to the keyboard. Let fly the random sparks of a quiet afternoon to allow my soul a moment to depressurize:

  • To love what you eat is appreciation. To eat what you love is a rut. The former makes us grateful while the latter makes us fat.
  • When I am bored I long to be doing something different. When I am busy, I long to do nothing.
  • Over and over I hear “change is the only constant”. If it’s changing, it’s not constant.
  • Just when I get hooked on a television series, the network takes it off the air. It must mean something.
  • Gray hair is said to be a distinguished look for men. Hmm. I just thought it meant you’re losing pigment. If it’ so distinguished, why don’t young men rush out and gray their’s?
  • In the “new” barbershops, stylists often ask me, when finished cutting and blow-drying, “do you want product?” In other words, do you want your hair to stay put or blow around like the head of Medusa?
  • CNN repeats the news incessantly. The BBC is worse. Never has so much been said about so little by so few.
  • The real value of that first cup of coffee: it gives me something to balance in those early morning moments when critical parts are still fast asleep.
  • I long for the old days when a large cup of coffee meant its LARGE. In the universe according to Starbucks, large is small, and “Venti” is the big one. Apparently, that justifies the price.
  • Three things I love about getting older: senior tickets at the movies, senior price discounts for Tuesday dinner at Ihop, and approaching more affordable healthcare coverage (not too far off). It’s all good.
  • Proof positive that we all live in “the Matrix”: pharmaceutical company ads urge us, “ask your doctor if X is right for you” just before telling us that side-effects may include embarrassing and unnatural conditions ( you can guess), strokes, fainting, or death. Clearly, they are banking on the fact that, either no one is really listening, or, more likely, no one is really thinking.

Spiritual living is a balancing of the via positiva, or cataphatic theology ( the way of the positive acts and disciplines that are of G-d and Spirit), the via negativa, or apaphatic theology ( what is NOT of G-d & the Spirit) and piercing through empty cliches, and the via purgativa ( the way of the penitent heart).

Let us dance with Sheva and grapple with our fads, follies, fumbles, and funny side along with our more serious celebration of  luminous moments.

© Brother Anthony Thomas and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

A Statue in Bangalore, India of Shiva Meditating

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James Joyce was a self-possessed, brilliant, arrogant, observant, modern Irish writer who gave us such memorable stories as Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Dubliners, Ulysses, and the comedic, opaque, largely unintelligible Finnegan’s Wake. The latter was a stream of consciousness work without much, if any, punctuation. A novel of one seemingly endless sentence. Stream of consciousness writing attempts to get the interior monologue out on paper. At its best, it captures movements of thought as if narrating the world of dreams in which non sequiturs and jarring juxtapositions are to be expected. What this form of writing is not, though many think it is, is mere gibberish or word salad. It is intelligible prose though less encumbered by usual rules of expression. Writing of this kind has one particular virtue: It gives the writer a medium through which to bring conscious and unconscious processes into closer contact in waking time.

It is just such an experiment I turn to today. The spiritual value is considerable  as the writing increases fluency of thought without the continuous editing that renders the text “more acceptable” to supposed audiences.So, I embark today on this type of writing to explore the thoughts that are moving through me now after three days of challenging, real-world formal presenting, and conversation with other professionals. In doing so, I have one specific question in mind: What does my inner monologue show about my state of mind, feeling, and consciousness? What are the signs, symbols, terms of reference, and dynamic forces that underlie my choices? What more can this process show about unconscious dynamics that can open doors to new rooms in my psyche? I begin ……

“Exhaustion.

Time itself seems heavy, fat with sluggish, molasses-like movement, after a marathon session of presenting, talking, conversing, questioning, and answering. Three days of watching adults drawn irresistably to their “crackberries” and laptops. They gaze at them as if mesmerized and they do so even while colleagues are talking, and presenting ideas. It really put me in a mood.

It doesn’t take  long after asking people to put the e-toys and tools away out of respect for the process, and being essentially ignored, before you stop caring and turn on your own Blackberry. Ah, self-importance, how completely the narcissistic impulses dominate. While so many talk about the addiction to cell phones and decry the assault on civil society and the loss of decorum, the beat goes on without hardly a dent in the habits. It confirms the truth of the matter:  behaviors don’t change because nobody really wants to change them.

Like rats pounding a target for pellets when that target lights up a particular color, the habit is well-entrenched. Looking at and tapping the keys on a cell phone to send and read e-mail releases endorphins. After all, so many emails must mean we’re pretty damned important. We matter. People care what we think. They care about us. Our lives have meaning, we proclaim to ourselves. Deep down, though, the gnawing corrosive truth eats away at us: Nobody really gives a shit! Ah, but the pleasure center is really  hot. This is powerful auto-erotic stimulation and, truth be told, we are all susceptible to the same urges.

I  enjoy mindless movement and moments of aimless entertainment, like changing channels on the remote control. Channel surfing is great sport. Inane though it is, it has the same character as cell phone addiction. Like any addiction, we become dependent on stimulation. Why? Are we that bored? Are there not better ways to occupy the mind? Sheer laziness of thought could explain it. We move so fast these days and sleep is generally in inadequate supply. Maybe  spacing out with one’s favorite electronic pacifier is a cheap substitute for what sleep accomplishes better and more wholesomely but we don’t get enough of it. Maybe it’s a stand-in for just letting the mental circuits cool down. Hmm, I wonder if Freud would consider this an oral fixation?

It’s annoying behavior when engaged in by other people though I confess it’s quite pleasing  when I am the one doing it. Since we are more alike than different, what does it mean that I find it so disturbing and offensive when I see it all day, all around me: in meetings, at dinner, in theaters, in doctor’ offices, at supermarkets, in trains, planes, automobiles,while driving, while standing at a urinal or sitting in the stall in a public bathroom, and even crossing a busy street. It seems all are glued to their cellphones, and it ticks me off. I resort to seeing them as somehow devolved and primitive for doing it.

Why so judgmental? It’s a bit hypocritical since I do the same thing from time to time. Is there a message in my annoyance? Let me follow the irritation down the rabbit hole, as Alice did before me, and Orpheus before her, who descended into Hades to rescue Euridice. I need to rescue part of myself from the mind-numbing habit of  browsing the web on Blackberry, reading email (a lot of it fairly trivial). Rescue myself from what? Maybe, from stupefaction and walking around in an electronic fog, a post-modern techno-daze. ….

Life is challenging. Things are getting more and more complex. Days are very long. I worry about my health and the health of my family. Pandemics are much in the news and encroaching on our colleges. H1N1 is here and the vaccine is already in short supply so you can’t get it. Flat out incompetence!! Public places are becoming riskier. Will there be another 9-11? Probably. Financial well-being is uncertain but the Wall Street fat cats are again awash in big bonuses. The magic Obama presides over mission-impossible. Is he losing his mojo? Will we get the “public option” or “Medicare- Part E”? Global warming will redefine the coast lines. Species are perishing rapidly, the oceans are heating up, the polar ice caps are melting along with the Greenland Ice Shelf, and storms are ever more ferocious. My best days are behind me as I move past middle age. The nest is empty, and the central mission of our lives is all changed. I pursue many hobbies. I read voraciously. I am desperate to know the truth, to know my purpose. When I die, is that it? I like reincarnation: another shot at it all. A second chance. Looking back, did I use my time well?

Both hands are getting numb from the typing, yet I type. So many questions. Dizzying. Worries are legion.

Ah, the reassuring, tap-tapping on the tiny keyboard, such a sweet anesthesia: Surfing the net, googling random ideas, catching up on the news about “balloon boy” and his insufferable mom and his dad, the insipid, erstwhile pseudo- “science detective.”

Now I wonder: if I were Neo ( in The Matrix) and Morpheus gave me the choice – red or blue pill-  which would I pick? How about you?”

© Brother Anthony Thomas and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The.Matrix.glmatrix.2

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Walking on the road to Caesare’a Philip’pi, according to the Gospel of Mark 8:27-33, Jesus asks his disciples: “Who do men say that I am”? They answer variously, Elijah, John the Baptist, and one of  the prophets. Then, he refines the question, and raises the stakes: “Who do you say that I am”?

In seven powerful words, he invites the disciples to reveal their inmost thoughts and, in doing so, their state of openness and vision. This question reverberates in my thinking and draws me into the scene as I imagine my own response if he posed this question to me today, right now.

I would reply:

” You are the voice and touch of the Divine Heart, the Teacher of Righteousness, the face of the Beloved.”

I

whisper on the wind, saying, “come this way, be joyful;”

light on a clear night, lead the way to freedom.

II

I am afraid and cannot speak nor clearly see the path before me;

but sweet and gentle warmth consoles this fretful fever.

III

consumed with doubts and questions, yet I step into the night;

arms outstretched to clasp the Light that draws me ever nearer.

IV

though I walk headlong in chance and awe, into this time’s enigma;

my heart awakens, eyes reach deep, into the Blessed Kerygma.

© Brother Anthony Thomas and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

monogram-of-christ384x389vatican

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I

Grey-tones in Heaven announce the sleeping-times:

I wander in dying leaves & wonder at the scene, deep saturated yellow, brown, red, amber, orange, and green.

A gift of consolation in dormant days and hollows, reminding of the birth, death, and resurrection that follows?

Persephone’s journey into darkness begun,  a time when seed and promise are sung.

II

Sadness on the air makes memory sweet,  of the splash of warm color  in five months we’ll greet;

When dull skies turn  bright , and flowers dance in the Light.

But now, bulbs and acorns, tempests, and chill, still a sacred opus there is to fulfill;

Moving a bit slower, gently I look, to the comforting pages of a warm-storied book.

III

Coloring now with palettes of Mind, a whispering inside me of wonders to find;

Textures of crystal, ice, pine-cones, and rain, mystical landscapes,  a Holy refrain.

Grey-tones above me, rainbows inside, stargazers counsel and poet’s confide;

Light of the World, world in the Light, for all who seek it, for all with true Sight.

DSCN2122

© Brother Anthony Thomas and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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In challenging myself this evening to a piece of automatic writing, my intent is to make room for the freer, less analytic and more poetic, metaphorical/anagogical narrative: an exercise in creative and spontaneous myth-making. Doing so gives the process over to natural rhythms and the self-organizing properties of dynamic systems of which Mind is the ultimate exemplar.

With all writing, the biggest hurdle of course is just knowing where to start.

For tonight’s experience, I am going to turn the New testament Gospel of Saint Luke  ( the Jerusalem Bible translation) for a seed idea:

” A  man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it but found none. He said to the man who looked after the vineyard, ‘Look here, for three years now I have been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and finding none. Cut it down: why should it be taking up the ground?’ ‘Sir,’ the man replied ‘leave it one more year and give me time to dig round it and manure it: it may bear fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down'”.

And, so, a spontaneous responsorial narrative …….

A business man had long dreamt of keeping a small garden so that his family could enjoy the freshest vegetables and fruits and not rely on the less nutritive produce shipped to local markets over long distances. Something of a would-be locovore, he talked often to family and friends about it and began the process of purchasing the necessary gardening tools, seeds, mulch, top soil and a variety of books to guide him on his way. He read through these often and imagined the process beginning with roto tilling a pretty sizable rectangular patch of ground.

Now, this man’s schedule was rather intense; traveling outside of his home state weekly and fairly often outside the country. He continued to lay plans for the opening of the garden, but each time the press of business delayed the opening.

Before long, it came the end of June and still he had not taken the first real steps (except, of course, for all that good planning). Much talk and good intentions later, the calendar page turned once again – it was August and still nothing had been done. At this point, there was little merit and nothing to be gained by digging and planting: the season for doing so in the Northeast had gone. Perhaps next year.

One late evening in early September, feeling down about the fact that, once again, the idea of the garden was still just an idea, he went outside on his deck looking out over the yard, and, as if for the first time all season, marveled at all of what had grown without any of his tending or planting.

Nature had taken charge and the yard was verdant with vegetation that was never formally planted. Things just sprouted up and quite rapidly too. A mimosa tree seemingly out of nowhere had grown over the years to substantial size providing much appreciated shading and adding beautiful violet flowers to the landscape. It also had serendipitously become a frequent favorite feeding spot for bees and birds of many varieties (including a striking Oriole family never seen in the yard before).

Elsewhere on the property, other species of trees had taken root from larger parents nearby and others found their  way, entirely on their own, from the front yard to the back. With all the planning for the garden and the continuous frustration at the fact that the garden never moved off of the planning page into reality, the busy, tired and dejected man suddenly realized that all this life went on and evolved totally without his intervention, and largely without his observation or appreciation.

He laughed to himself and smiled with a momentary child-like sense of restored youth and faith in possibilities. He felt warm inside, content to just open up to the native beauty that found its way into his yard.

It was always right there for him: a nutritive value to be sure, if of a different kind. As for the garden, he thought of next year but also of the realities of his life and the qualities required of the faithful gardener: to tend the vegetables and the fruits with patience, understanding, and vigilance. Maybe this could happen if the task were joyfully shared so that all members of the family took ownership for helping to cultivate fruit and vegetables and just maybe, for now, it would need to be a bit more modest than he had envisioned.

He thought, finally, before going inside and closing the sliding door to the deck, that it was good to have thought long and hard and planned and dreamed and, yes, even failed. It made possible a few blissful moments of quiet and simple revelation on the deck at dusk looking out at a landscape that was just there – patiently waiting, watching, and growing all along.

© Brother Anthony Thomas and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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