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Posts Tagged ‘free association’

On a visit last week to Fort Lauderdale, I visited the Butterfly Garden with my wife and daughter. The weather was on the warmer side, the sun shone brightly, and the butterfly aviaries were a delight. We spent a few hours walking through the extensive property made up of a small bridge over a well manicured pond, colorful plant life and trees, and, of course, quite a few separate aviaries dedicated to diverse species of butterflies and one set aside for hummingbirds.

The best part of the experience was to sit quietly on a bench surrounded by tens of butterflies and letting them settle on my arms and clothing. Fortunately, the aviaries were not crowded with people so it was easy to sit for a while and appreciate the amazingly rich array of color and patterns. These are among the most fragile of life forms but few are as inspiring. Just before Easter, they served as a marvelous metaphor for resurrection and rebirth given the metamorphosis from caterpillar to taking flight on breathtaking wings ranging from pure white to spotted, turquoise, various pastels, full yellow, and a striking red and black variety ( see the picture above).

It is hard to imagine  being anxious (barring phobias) in such spaces. A sense arises of the inter-connection of all things. What a privilege it is to be conscious and able to savor for days weeks and months to come the experience of a quiet afternoon in the Florida sunshine with creatures such as these.

As I walked and took my many pictures using my cellphone camera (which, surprisingly, captured some wonderful shots), I came upon a white butterfly that sat on the ground in harm’s way already clearly having suffered wing damage. I became immediately saddened at the sight and then pensive at the scene as one tries to reconcile the tragedies of life with its glories. What came swiftly to mind is the rosary and the important juxtaposition of the Sorrowful, Glorious, and Luminous Mysteries. Almost without a thought, I felt compelled to pick up the butterfly and return it to a nearby leaf. It was clear that it was dying, and it felt right that it should do so on a leaf and not against the cold, unnatural pavement.

I am a panentheist and this moment brought that home to me once again. The Spirit runs through all the created. Each natural form is a face of the mind of Ein Sof, the otherwise unknowable. Once again, as creatures with personhood, we know the Divine Presence personally. We feel the Presence more so than we can adequately think the Presence. This is the Gnosis Kardia, the Knowledge of the Heart.

So, on a quiet March day, just a week ago, I was visited by a butterfly who stopped me in my tracks to consider my own mortality, the mortality of others, life’s mysterious transits, and the power of regeneration, resurrection, renewal and the true heaven that emerges in every moment illuminated by authentic compassion.

This is Holy Week in the Western calendar. May this week be a time for you of profound revelatory moments, of transformative experiences, and a deeper dive into the Heart of the Cosmos.

© 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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I marvel at human ingenuity and it assumes so many forms. Not the least demonstration of our creative prowess as a species is the invention of signs for every conceivable condition and situation under the sun. When I travel, I am always struck by the wide range of signs ( traffic, warnings, announcements, and designations). Around the world, there are the clever varieties of stick figures and cute expressions differentiating the men’s and women’s toilets. On flights, proof that classical conditioning is a powerful force, there is the tyranny of the red lit restroom light signifying an unwelcome delay to one’s own relief, and the sheer delight that comes over one when that light turns green.

Engaging our visual and sometimes auditory sense, signs awaken us to present or emerging realities. We are made aware. We are told to mind our way forward, alter our behavior, adjust our expectations, and do things that are judged more healthy and wholesome by the authorities that be. With the rampant fears attached to pandemics, there are notices posted in restrooms world-wide reminding us to wash our hands. Public service advertising reminds us to do the same and dispensing bottles of Purrell and  related antiseptic equivalents are popping up everywhere.

Signs are comforting. It accentuates the essentially social nature of our conduct as human beings. It reminds us that life entails obligations for the other and for the society in which we are a part. Signs are a check on individuality. They represent the boundaries of personal freedom and represent curbs on the otherwise unbridled appetites of the narcissistic and solipsistic.

There is a tension that exists always between signage and the personal individual spirit. This tension is itself a trigger for a meditation. It represents the truth that we are neither individual nor collective, but a hybrid species alive at the intersection.

Spiritually, taking time to nullify the two polar myths of life opens up extraordinary vistas: the myths of individuality and plurality. These two myths define poles of a central dilemma in our consciousness. As we ponder the tension they inspire we become aware of a third way forward: the way of the sojourner, voyager, and argonaut.

We cannot complete the journey alone. We are vitally and necessarily interdependent though what inspires us is deeply personal. We emerge as transpersonal beings. We live in-between these poles and, as captured so masterfully by Homer in the Odyssey, we must navigate between the two sirens, Scylla and Charybdis, and avoid being lured too close to either and crashing upon the rocks that lie there as we traverse a turbulent sea. We must chart our course, boldly, bravely, and mindfully, straight through between them.

When next you see a sign, consider it a meditative trigger on the true state of our being in the World and an invitation to explore the psychic geography of our true home in the Spiritual City.

© 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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Seated diagonally across from me in business class was a quiet couple and my attention was drawn to them almost immediately upon boarding my flight. The gentleman was very quiet, unassuming, and seemingly pensive. His wife, dressed in traditional clothing, was also very reserved, relaxed and attentive. Every once in a while, they looked at each other and just smiled. It was a smile that I recognized immediately. It’s a smile that cannot be faked and is earned only after many years of marriage. It says: ” Hello my dearest friend and my reason for being.”

It was certainly not my intention to intrude but I simply could not tear myself away for too long though I made certain that my observing was covert and unobtrusive. What captivated my interest was the depth of their comfort with each other, the simple intimacy and affection without sentimentality. It was reassuring and cut through all the thinking one does about life purpose and meaning. Here, in a moment, was the unadorned answer to the puzzles of meaning. Their worlds were defined by one another. They saw life and its purpose in each other’s eyes. The smile, like that of so many Buddha statues, was one of profound recognition and imperturbability.

At one point, they each turned inward and simply sat quietly, as we all did, awaiting taxi and takeoff. Our flight was delayed owing to a mechanical problem so there was more time to either doze, read, or, as did so many, flip through email and send and receive text messages. The Hindu couple just sat. No reading, dozing, and no cell phone. They just awaited the next moment. Then, at one point, I noticed the distinguished gentleman ( distinguished more in character than in dress) take out and open his passport as if to read it. He opened it up and then, to my surprise, touched it with seeming reverence to his forehead.

At this gesture, I was perplexed. I wondered:” Is this a devotional, a simple prayer, a superstition, or did I see it all wrong?” A few more moments of thought and I concluded that the motion was too deliberate to be  misread. Once again, I found myself impressed. It was not a movement intended for anyone to see. It was not a grand and ostentatious motion designed to draw attention at all. I only noticed it since I was already taken with this couple. While others may know better, I surmised that this was a prayer perhaps of protection, a blessing for  a bon voyage, and an homage to the reality that we are not in control of so much that happens to us and around us.

Within the bosom of the divine, all things are reconciled. We wrap ourselves in mystery and in acknowledging it we are profoundly freed of the worry that otherwise consumes us as we work hard to take control where control doesn’t belong to us. We are creatures of ritual. I am always comforted and impressed when people of whatever faith openly practice their ritual without any need of recognition or the attention of others. When it is inspired by a profound personal identification with mystery it is full of hope and it offers that hope to any who, with eyes opened and hearts opened wide enough, can benefit from the warmth and glow that the practice affords to the practitioner.

“Where beauty and love are there also is G-D!”

© 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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The steel behemoth lurches, pulling fast-away just after my arriving;

Not a moment to lose as I begin the clear afternoon crossing.

A gently undulating sea receives my haste and purpose with cool indifference;

Only the evanescent foam at the stern in the wake of my transit takes any notice.

So goes the journey of souls ferried here and there in dissolving moments;

Consumed by flights of well-meaning, scheduled intending.

As native gulls soar and search, and the diesel-beast heaves forward;

Under smooth and comforting skies,  a fresh-clean and azure-blue.

No white scars of cloud or flight of any man-made thing;

And my eyes go out to where sky and water meet, and I hear my heart beating.

No goals no roles no missions to delude me;

I am the lighted sea, and the winter sky.

I am the boiling foamy-turbulence in the Archimedean trail;

The hungry gull, the bustling crewman,

and the poet watcher,

a curious looking-man,

gazing down upon the crossing.

© 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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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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Quantum superposition is the bizarre physical principle that, if the world can exist in any configuration, than it can also exist in one that is a combination of any number of them at the same time. The mind similarly demonstrates this property in ways that substantiate the fact that we are not separate. We exist in many potential simultaneous configurations of consciousness, span time and space, and the world of dreams manifests these configurations.

Last night, I dreamt that my son was in trouble with the law. He was in jail with pending charges. At the same time, I was in jail awaiting arraignment on pending charges. It seems that I was both my son and myself.

This is not especially remarkable as we have all experienced elaborate and confusing dreamscapes where space and time simply do not behave themselves as they seem to in waking time and where we can live many lives in diverse places and as many people. Here’s the more interesting twist.

In realtime, the 21-year-old son of a family friend is awaiting the court’s disposition on charges that were recently brought against him during the holidays. A police officer responded to reports of a domestic argument in which this 21-year-old was caught up in a moment of rage in his home.

Shocked to then see a police officer at his bedroom door, he continued his angry tone and did so with the officer as the target. In response, the officer chose to forcibly restrain him, push him to the floor while hurling profanities at him, and handcuff him. Once subdued, this officer is then alleged to have started beating the young man with his bare fists.

Now, his dad, expressing understandable concern for his son, asked the officer to please stop hitting him. In response, the policeman handcuffed and arrested him also. His wife, a very sweet woman, who wouldn’t hurt a fly, then became very upset and tugged on the police officer’s jacket asking him to stop hurting her husband.

At this point, the officer handcuffed and arrested her. The entire family spent the night in jail and no one actually did anything wrong. The police were originally called out of concern for their son’s rage in hopes of calming him down. Last I heard, the court is talking about 30 days of community service for both parents, which their lawyers are contesting, and the multiple charges against their son are being legally reviewed.

So, in view of these circumstances, a Kafkaesque dream about my being jailed with my son in jail for no clear reason is not especially surprising. One could argue that the dreams were simply a reflection of my concern for this good family that lived through a night of hell and who face an ongoing and, by all indications, undeserved legal battle in the months ahead. I would agree with that, were it not for one further development.

When I awoke, I heard from my son in Korea who was just back from the hospital there after a night of violent and unrelenting gastrointestinal symptoms. It turns out the dream was prophetic. While having nothing to do with the law, it was symbolic of my son’s distress and his need to get in touch with me. The surreal plot surrounding the arrest of this family and their pending charges served as a frame for my sense that my son was having trouble. This scenario involving prescient dreams has happened many times over the years. In addition, many people, who share their dreams with me, report similar experiences all the time.

Consciousness laces the universe together. We walk around each day wrapped in the delusion that we travel independent pathways. In fact, our pathways mystically intersect in complex ways. There is no such thing as meaningless coincidences. This is not an example of magical thinking but of synchronistic event horizons. Denying this ubiquitous human experience is poor science. It rejects phenomenological data about archetypal fields in favor of simpler and more easily analyzed effects.

We are beckoned every day to embrace our legacy as children of the stars and mature physical science is leading the way in revealing the entangled and infinite reach of consciousness.

© 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.

Shakespearean Costumes for Midsummer Night's Dream ( Public Domain)

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