The Bridge Home

the bridge home

 

When the holidays are upon us, the bridge home seems to be a more rickety bridge than usual.  Family life can encompass the best of days and the worst of days.  Remembering that what we fear in life is losing control of our selves, family can induce a loss of self and soul that has us wanting to scurry for the first rabbit hole that we find. It can also hold us in its embrace when the sorrow is too much to handle, and we are overwhelmed with grief.

Home for the holidays with Barbara Stanwyck  living in a perfect New England home, snow bound with a horse drawn sleigh at the front door to bring you into town for the last minute pound of butter or canned milk, was too pretty.  It creates in us a longing for something that does not really exist.  It always made me ask as a kid, “where do they go to the bathroom?”  You never saw in those idyllic movies where and of the “crap” happened.

christmas in connecticut

Life in 21st century America is a dollar driven life with things and events symbolizing an upward mobility and a sense of abundance that is not on the horizon for most Americans any more.  We have what we have, and we have to find a way to be content with that because the upward mobility american-dream-thing is a rapidly vanishing fantasy that is as equally unpalatable as Barbara’s dream in a 1950 Christmas in Connecticut movie.

Even our beloved states of longing seem to vanish with the advent of capitalism replacing democracy as not only the economic system of the american people, but as the form of government and the types of lives that are permitted under this new umbrella of global aristocracy. We have become income driven–not values driven.

As Americans we inherited a transcendental philosophy that was born out of the writings of Emerson, Alcott, and the 19th century Concord Literary Society that became know as the 1st revolutionaries in American Literature.  That period of American History became engrained in us, representing a value that was greater that what money could buy.  The early Transcendentalist saw the natural elements of life as the template to a free and loving society.  It used the natural to remind us of life and death.  It used humanity as the test center that attempted to illustrate that a society, a neighborhood was greater than the sum of its parts.

Communities and families died and suffered and lived and enjoyed life together.  The small town, dirt-road, trails always led to somewhere you wanted to be.  After all it was the the trotted road the got the wear.  Families are pretty much all that is left of this inter-dependent way of life; and families are hanging on by a thread as the holy dollar calls the older brother to Cleveland, and the younger sister to Huston and the parents had to retire to Florida as the Massachusetts economy became too expensive to purchase on a fixed-income.  So middle sister, who was fortunate enough to find a husband and a job in the home town, is now the only member of the family left in the home town.

Is it still home town when everyone you know has moved on or moved away?

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  It is only food and companionship and love that make it happen.  It is not a commercial holiday.  Except for food, the stores have to be clamoring for your Christmas dollar there is no Thanksgiving gift.  And I am grateful for that fact.  Department stores and Big Box stores could starve to death on Thanksgiving and I would have one more things to be grateful for.

I want to make a wish today.  I want to wish that everyone who reads this essay will find a way to promote this message to everyone they know and meet.  I want this holiday to stay free of commercial broadcasting and that there will never be such a thing a thanksgiving music..  I want everyone to be as persistent as they can be to call families together for this once a year gratitude day.

I want the bridge home for Thanksgiving to be free and easy and spontaneous and not filled with expectations.  I want every one who wants to be home for the holiday to be able to get there.  I wish that this message get read by people who are just on the verge of wanting to get home to be spurred homeward by the sincerity and forgiveness that this holiday promotes.

 

Happy Gratitude Day, 2013

Charlestown, RI 02813

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Heart-Felt Emotions

freud1

One might ask, Are not all emotions heart felt?  Maybe?  But I have a specific reason to be tapping the emotions in relation to the heart.  We hardly stop to think of emotions and heart as being an integrated aspect of nature.  Our spontaneous capacity for joy or sorrow, laughter or tears; or our wonder at the beauty or the horrors of life — these are the stuff that elevate our consciousness or dismantle our well-being.  I am inclined to believe that the information supplied by the heart and the body is significantly different from the information supplied by the mind and the brain.

Emotions have a great deal in common with feelings.  They both erupt from the body rather than erupt from the mind, and as such they are quicker on the draw.  They avalanche us, they seemingly attack us from the outside.  We hardly know from where they come and there is no organ in the body that operates like the brain does, so we are left with the notion of feeling and emotion happen to us.

We are, as a science, certain that emotions inform us, but unlike our thoughts, our feelings and emotions register as subjective experience rather than as objective data.  If I were to hold up a picture of a table you would not have an passioned response.  But let’s say that I were to hold up a picture of a forest on fire with several children seemingly trapped, you might have a visceral response.  One is a simple objective fact the other is charged with emotion.

We intuitively know the distinction between an objective thought and an impassioned emotion.  The most important function of a feeling is to inform the body of a condition that needs to be paid attention to…hunger, exhaustion, pain, these we recognize as sensations that encourage us to think about and to act in accordance with both the informed feeling and subsequently the informed thought.

Another major difference between a thought and a feeling is that the feeling rises to consciousness with no help from our mind.  Emotions tend to be independent and they rise out of experience as a sensation.  They are not formulated in language. They exist as a system of the body that is void of  language oriented thoughts.

In Western tradition, the heart felt instincts from which emotions and feelings arise are not cultivated as a product of much value.  We are trained to be rational.  We have even excluded the study of the subjective from scientific evaluation.  It is relegated to fringe disciplines most associated with self-help and new-age phenomena.  This is changing as the neuro sciences are breaking new sound barriers in the mind/body matrix.

It makes more sense now than ever to be re-awakening the foundational knowledge that Freud brought to the western hemisphere of civilization.  The neurology of his time over one hundred years ago reads like hieroglyphics.  But Freud’s metaphors of neurology are today’s cutting edge science.

The heart of the matter has never been more important than it is right now. Not only is our entire neural history carried in our hearts and minds, but our ancestral knowledge garnered from our parentage and eons back from that is also carried in our hearts and minds.

The heart of the matter, as I see it, resides in the knowledge that as an organism we possess a divided mind.  It is made up of instinct and ego, conscious and unconscious as well as thoughts and feelings, hormones and dendrites, mucus and sinew, with neuro-circutry connected in such a way that it operates more organically like a jungle than it does like a computer.

If the metaphor carries through, the rational thought runs like a computer, because it is what developed the computer.  The heart of the matter runs more like a jungle where instinct acts to help us survive and grow at the microcosm and the macrocosm of it; but it does not use language to convey its information to us.  It uses subjective sensation as the unit of communication.  A bird call, if you will.  Like in the jungle the bird call can be heard by all species, the proximity of the tiger is alerted by a bird call.

We need to locate within us the capacity to hear the bird call and to interpret it for its intended meaning.  We have no intention of throwing away the lap-top, but if I am walking through a jungle, I would like to think that the call of the wild is as easily readable  as the english characters in this computer screen.

The heart of the matter  has information as crucial to our survival as is the stuff of the manifested mind….

Home Sweet Home

I have done very little writing this summer.  I guess I am OK with that, but I do find myself searching for something and I think the search is for something as comforting as writing was earlier in the year.  It is so easy to blame summer.  There is sheer joy in just being in the world where the windows are open to a constant breeze and the birds sings and the water becomes holy and warm and healing.  I did spend a great deal of this summer healing and thinking about healing.

Before the summer ends I wanted to put some of these thoughts together in a cohesive essay because I think they might be helpful to other people who suffer from the chronic critical voice that lingers like a ticker-tape in the back of the mind, forever calling out some atrocity about to happen or warning us about some grievous fault that we have committed.

We have a mind that we can to some extent control.  That is the mind we think with.  “I think I want to go to the marketplace and purchase some vegetables for tonight’s dinner.”  That statement is a thought that will most likely propel me into an action at some point so that I am able to accomplish the object of my desire:  buy vegetables.  The sound from that voice in my head was as clear as if I had spoken it out-loud.

But, what about the voice that speaks in a dimmer tone, the one that says:  “you can’t do that, you are not smart enough, you have no culture and if you go out everyone you want to impress will know what a supreme jerk you are….”  That voice is also a communication from the mind but it seems to have a more autonomic sense about it.  It is not a thought that i decided that I wanted to have, rather it is a thought that stays suspended in a sub-conscious state and though we have no desire to listen to it, it may well propel us to action or passivity like the first example about the vegetables.

We are frequently guided by a force that seems to come from nowhere.  We put our heads on the pillow and instead of a list of gratitudes, what comes out is a list of outlandish criticisms that seek to prevent us from going after what we want.

This summer I wanted to stay home at the Lake.  The voice was very loud on many occasions telling me I was lazy, but I was able to overcome the voice by continuously reminding myself that following my desire is a more noble effort than sulking.  It occurred to me many time this summer that if I was going to have a pleasant, free and easy summer that I was going to have to invite in the peace that comes from deliberate intention.

It remains amazing to me that the negative thoughts springing from some repetition in the ego are so easy to access, while the peaceful, calm, deliberate serenity that I get from writing, or reading or a multitude of other activities that I enjoy; these must be invited in.  I like to use a “zen” like singing bowl, tap its side and listen to the vibrations that last into a long fading silence.  This reminds me that I need to listen deliberately and that I must be conscious about inviting in gratitude….

Summer was great!

my prayer

my prayer

my prayer is to linger with you, at the end of the day….my prayer and the answer you give, may they both be the same

 

There are moments in life, foxhole moments when i delight in my boy-hood faith.  Despite that fact that those early years were characterized by a belief in a God that can no longer exist for me, I am nonetheless, gratified when I find myself praying.  I no longer need a God to pray to.  My prayers are a meditation of sorts that help me to resolve almost any issue that I come up against.  I have found that the little Buddhist training that I have goes a long way to helping me out of the rabbit hole when I fall into it.

Like Alice, the rabbit hole holds no answers only tremendous chaos and confusion…the queen of hearts and the cheshire cat, and the mad hatter run around letting Alice know that nothing, nothing is like it use to be in the light of day…the darkness, the location of darkness, is a hole that deludes  our sense of reality and demands of us that we believe in hopelessness.  Sadness, ill health and other forms of depressing thought cloud our ability to see our reasoning selves.  The reasoning self and the heart that beats with intuition are eclipsed by huge feelings that give us the idea that the Joy that resides in side is gone from us.

Joy lives in us and we either allow it to manifest, or we are too troubled to see that it is not gone, it is eclipsed by, big feelings…have patience with yourself and be persistent in your search for you internal gladness.  And if you need to coax it along…list your gratitude regardless of how insignificant  they appear to be next to your fears….gratitude always aims for gladness

more on consciousness & creativity

Waking up in an environment that is as stunningly beautiful as this one is, I can not help but be drawn to topics that interest me at the core.  In the context of abject silence, blanketed by wildflowers, tall oaks and wind breezing through tall pines, all captured in an aroma of earth and sea, I love to contemplate aesthetics and specifically consciousness.

What and who am I?  I mean what about who I am gives me the capacity to appreciate and call something beautiful or to call something love.  The context is a plot of land minutes away from the sea and from ice ponds on the piece of land that we New Englanders call The Vineyard.  There must be several acres of pristinely cultivated land that yields not only the brightest of red tomatoes, but also is dotted and spotted with more colors than the eye can count.  All this is set in silence.  I can not hear any human made sound.  No lawn mowers, no leaf blowers, no exhaust, no fumes, no a trace of human activity that is anything but throughly respectful to sustaining the environment.  Even the water is heated by the sun.  Birds flutter and tweet and the breeze blows through a sun drenched screened-in porch.

Can you tell that I am happy?  Can you tell that I am in love?

I am keenly aware that the setting and the people here are all contributing to an exuberance that is not always possible while existing in the hum-drum aspects of my ordinary life.  I do not have a big-life, and ordinarily  I am scarcely aware of that fact; but today, here and by juxtaposition, I am experiencing the fact that both quantity and quality effect my days and my moods of consciousness.

I am attempting to experience a visceral understanding of being as opposed to knowing.  I find that when I sit with the attempt to meditate that I do not want to pull myself away from the beauty and the sensations of delight that are running through me.  I do not want to trade in the experience of exhilaration for the experience of stillness.  As I pondered this, I began to wonder if I was perhaps understanding a greater resistance.  Meditating is difficult for me, but also for many people.  And when people talk about the difficulties with meditating they usually talk about a condition where they are unable to simply stay focused on the moment and their mind drifts to thoughts or visions or concepts and ideas, more exciting than stillness or breath.

The desire to run away from the stillness might be the same in this moment as it is in any other moment.  I do not want to leave my dialogue.  I do not want to leave my persona and the experiences it is creating in the moment in order to experience a moment of  “simply” pure consciousness.

Pure consciousness  is a form of being that is removed from the egoic perceptions, including the perceptions that are specifically created as a direct result of our linguistic competence.  If my egoic self is the result of evolution and if by extension my persona–who I tell myself I am, is a product of that evolution, then it would seem that meditating is actually a return to a more primitive aspect of the human condition.  Essentially meditating looked at this way is a regression to not only an earlier aspect of my life, but, indeed a return to a less evolved human condition that existed prior to humans linguistic.

To void oneself of thought, one has to be able to turn off the portion of the mind that creates thought.  If we think of this in terms of location we are saying that in order to meditate one has to be able to get away from who one has decided that one is to a place in the mind where the ego is not functioning.  This place is perhaps more akin to experiencing nothingness than it is to a location.  But for sake of language, let’s say for a moment that the ego evolved or grew out of the brain as a cluster of activities that allowed one to categorize and synthesize events and experiences.  As this ego grew both from the macro point of view and from the micro point of view, it became associated with learning about the world that it was born into.

I am firmly convinced that my dog is capable of the same experience of lying in a spot of sun at home in my city apartment as well as it capable of enjoying a spot of sun in this idyllic Vineyard environment.  To be honest, that is not the experience that I have.  There are conscious moments during which I seek out an aesthetic environment in order to be able to experience more joy and more exuberance that I can find in my “ordinary” life.

In other words, in order to facilitate my experience of joy, I create conditions in which joy is more able to be allowed in to consciousness.  So here, this morning, sitting in a porch with the sea breeze and the colors of the world dancing in my senses, it is much easier for me to relax into a kind of state that is absolutely wonderful.  From where did this joy come.  It seems unlikely that it actually comes from the setting as much as it comes from my allowing the setting to be absorbed in a particular fashion that then registers as exhilaration.  Aspect of consciousness that are not being impinged upon by ordinary responsibilities, are open to the wider sensation of being because my more primitive senses are more acute than they might be in a less idyllic setting.

So, have I suspended higher, more elaborate forms of consciousness as I allow myself to relax into a cradle of pleasant sensations.  At least, I think that I have.  But it may be less that I have escaped from the egoic persona as much as it a different concentration that is providing this moment of joy.

I seem to have closed down avenues that  in another setting would bring me closer to synthetic thinking and instead I am simply contemplating the experience of the pure sensations and because they are each so pleasant, I do not have a requirement to “do” something with them.  Instead I am simply able to feel the experience which is a more elementary human condition than is complex thinking.

At the same time, the aesthetics of the location are so stunning that they open up a new rivulet of consciousness that is unchartered and therefore more amenable to creativity.  My consciousness is both elevated and suppressed at the same moment.  I am aware of the simplicity of being and also am gratified by the experience that this simplicity offers in terms of being able to have progressive or new combinations of experience leading to my openness to creativity as opposed to my being open to the routine to my ordinariness.

My being able to suspend my customary dialogue about who I am, about what persona has evolved with me since my early years of existence, allows me to use the same circuitry that I use to navigate my environment in a new and creative manner making it seem to me that I am existing outside my persona.  In actuality all that I am doing is being or existing outside of my habit or routine.  And this fact is so delightful to my consciousness that i think I am in a different state.

It may be that I am not in a different state at all, rather I may be using an unfamiliar combinations of circuitry.  The same set of circuitry that creates my ego, but rearranged in an unfamiliar pattern–the new unfamiliar pattern my be what I call my creativity.

Nonetheless, the experience of creativity is a sound mechanism for me to be able to use to exit my narcissistic ego.  As I move from one state to the other–location, or circuitry–I find within my frame of reference a newly born capacity to rearrange either negative thinking or bad-habit thinking, or simply ordinary routine thinking into a sort of synthesized newer version of the old egoic me.  Because this feels so good, I am able to label it well-being and with Practice I am able to remember this sensation of well-being and with low-key effort I can call on this remembered-wellness most any time that I want to.

In a future essay i will take up some of the reasons why this remembered wellness is only available most of the time and try to shed some insight on how we can increase the number of times and situations that this remembered state is available.

kindness–

I found this poem on the web and i thought it applied  significantly to how we can convert a feeling like sadness to anger, or fear to hopelessness.  I thought that it touched not only on the actual feelings that we struggle with, but that kindness seems to be working in this piece as a solution, one more tool in the psychoanalytic kit for emerging from narcissism.

I certainly have had the experience of having my future dissolve in a moment.  Many of us have–sometimes in relation to a massive tragedy and other times in relation to a minor inconvenience.  The point is that we have a capacity to witness the process of watching our mood slowly follow a thought into the deep darkness of the recesses of our minds.  Once in a regressed state it is so hard to figure a way out.

What I have been suggesting is that we know ourselves well enough to know that we will be deposited, we will slide back, we will find ourselves in some state of helpless or hopeless emotional turmoil again.  It is inevitable.

If we have believed in the process of practice, we have such a betters chance of noticing the bad feeling as a cue, as a warning that we are not in the state of well-being that is such wonderful place from which to live life.  If we practice how to emerge from narcissism even before we slide back into it we will see that from within the darkness we have a remembered well-Ness that can assist us to finding our way out of sever internal conflict that appears to be about something happening in the world but is happening as a conflict within.

I think of remembered well ness as a psychoanalytic tool, but it is a tool used by Buddhist and mindfullness teachers and spiritual leaders as well as cognitive behaviorist psychologist.   I think of remembered well ness as a tool of the universe, as a gift to the human condition.  But it is a tool that must be practiced to be useful.   If you were born with the potential of being a fine pianist but you never practiced playing the piano chances of you becoming a fine musician are slim.

A similar talent or gift is our cognitive ability to reach down into the recesses of our linguistic competence and begin to apply new feeling/thoughts to our psyche. The application of a better feeling thought to a psychic wound is like an ice-pack on a bodily wound.  It causes a degree of soothing that allows us to begin to think that we are already healing from the wound.  The application of a better linguistic thought does more that shift words around it gives us the capacity to shift moods around.  In this scenario a fowl mood is simply an alert to the mind that we are needing to shift our thinking and make it more accurately fit the experience of well-being that so many of us have spend a life time searching for.

The poem that follows is about Kindness, but it is about so much more that kindness alone.  I hope you enjoy it.

Kindness

Before you know what kindness really is

you must lose things,

feel the future dissolve in a moment

like salt in a weakened broth.

What you held in your hand,

what you counted and carefully saved,

all this must go so you know

how desolate the landscape can be

between the regions of kindness.

How you ride and ride

thinking the bus will never stop,

the passengers eating maize and chicken

will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,

you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho

lies dead by the side of the road.

You must see how this could be you,

how he too was someone

who journeyed through the night with plans

and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.

You must wake up with sorrow.

You must speak to it till your voice

catches the thread of all sorrows

and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,

only kindness that ties your shoes

and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,

only kindness that raises its head

from the crowd of the world to say

it is I you have been looking for,

and then goes with you every where

like a shadow or a friend.

~ Naomi Shihab Nye ~

Dr. Albert Dussault

It’s Time to Wear Whites

It is the start of Memorial Day weekend in 2010.  It takes a long time for me to absorb change and I am still unsure how to say the number “2010”.  Do I call it, twenty-ten, or is it the year two-thousand and ten, maybe there are several ways to say this number, but the one thing that i am sure of is that as of today I can wear white again…

I am such a fashion hound as those of you who know me have seen.  At the very least the elastic that holds my hair back matches my jeans or the color of my sneakers.  But on Memorial Day–I love to wear white.  It is liberating to wear white.  It is saying to the world, I can eat pasta and red sauce and not drop any on me, it is saying to the sun–I will not absorb any of your vitamin – D, and most of all it is saying that summer has arrived.

The geese are back, honking their way from one side of the lake to the other, last night i heard a faint whisper of peepers in the woodland and this morning I am drinking my coffee on the deck before getting dressed….I love to love summer and at this time of the year it become my favorite season–for a while.

You see, when I have had enough of getting exactly what I want from the universe a very strange thing happens.  I find myself wanting a much simpler life.  I discover that when I am free from wanting, free from desiring anything more than the feeling that I am having in the moment, a gentle sense of contentment sets in that is a complete anti-thesis to wanting anything.  I must confess that I do have a lovely spot on earth from which to not want anything more.

You might say that where I am living now is a manifestation of what I have wanted in the years past.  My home is situated on a lake, on the side of a hill, surrounded by trees and pines and chirping birds, so you could almost say that I was already in Paradise.  Based on the idea that what I have, I have manifested because some where in the past I have set myself up to receive this; based on that idea I have created my current universe out of the universe that I was born into.  For Star-Trek fans it will be easy to understand.  I have walked through the doors of the “holideck” and I am arrived at the vacation that I am taking from the rest of the fleet.

You might thing that I was talking about manifesting an illusion, but that is not really the case.  Rather, I have taken what the low-hanging fruit are in my world and created a cornucopia filled with the fruit that I like and it is here around me for me to participate in–to what ever extent that I allow.

In part the wearing of white must have to do with the proliferation of colors that the world supplies at this time of the year.  It is easy to be in white and to be an ensemble with anywhere you go.  Take the majestic Iris, were you to stand near the iris in any garden, who you are would be increased 100 fold simply by being near this divine creation of the universe.  As we grow into our world and shed, one thing at a time, the materials that we thought were so important, we discover that the incredible lightness of being, the simple life, is so enormously filled with abundance that we do not really need to possess as much as we have thought we needed to be happy.  Actually, the reverse begins to happen–the more we are in touch, aware, awakened to, the idea the we are a child of the universe, the more we understand that what we need we carry with us.

We are fortunate.  If you are reading this essay–you are fortunate, because it means that you have a computer at your disposal, you have electricity to generate it, and you have education behind you to be able to read and absorb the words.  You are fortunate because you very birth right has placed you in a location where–to more or less, you have the opportunities of a free and abundant world.  You are free to continue reading this, free to go into the world and drink a coffee or a tea and probable free to buy the morning paper and a muffin and turn on the radio and listen to the events happening in the world.

There is a kind of freedom that we have that we take for granted.  I am free to wear white in summer.  I am wealthy enough to own a pair of linen slacks and a silk shirt and a hat to cover my head from the sun beating down.  I am free to engage in conversation and I am free to isolate myself and turn my attention to the remnants of yesterday still lingering in my mind.  I am free to turn my attention to tomorrow, to later today.  I am free to create fantasy, generate desires, engage regrets or simple establish myself in the mystical moment of now.

NOW, is the time to wear white.  Now is the time to relinquish the aspects of you that are cumbersome.

Just think–for the next thirty-seconds, right now, right here in the middle of reading this essay, you can stop and ring a bell in your heart and listen to the sound of the chime as it rises and falls back into obscurity, and as you do this you can breath and clear your mind of any thoughts for just a few seconds and you will awaken to a simpler you………………………………..

“Love is not love if alteration is does find………..”  A Shakespeare sonnet begins with that line and it might as well apply to the whole of the universe as well as to a lover.  When I accept the world for what it is, I find a happier me able to establish myself in the moment and absorb the wealth of the world at my disposal.

You can wear white just about anywhere…