When God/dess Grins At You…

I dreamt…

I was trying to understand…

I was in a large, open, airy room with many other people. Around the edges of the room (and randomly placed within it) there were shelves, cupboards, and bookcases — all crammed full of things. At a glance I could see hundreds of books (of course!), jars of various powders and liquids, rolled scrolls, piles of art supplies, whatever we might need to learn by creating.

It felt like a school but we were our own teachers. We were all sitting in little groups at small tables, but we were not working together. Each one was studying on his or her own. Some were writing in notebooks, others making drawings, diagrams, paintings, or sculpting. Some were reading, and a few were doing combinations of these things. There was an intense silence except for the rustling of pages, the skritch of pens upon paper, and the soft sound of brushes. I had a large pad of paper in front of me together with pens of many colors — bright and subtle, clear and muddy, translucent and opaque, scintillating and dull, through and beyond the rainbow.

I urgently, achingly wanted to understand something about God/dess so I began by drawing the three circles of a Venn diagram. Venn diagrams are fun and sometimes they bring great clarity to things. These didn’t. Each circle became more complex as I wrote within it and studied it. The things within the circles multiplied, as if they were spawning other circles randomly. Things that seemed simple on the surface were full of complicated concepts that often I couldn’t comprehend at all. The harder I tried to understand, the more confusing it was. I got hot and sweaty and frustrated and felt like a failure. My beautiful colored pencil broke because I was pushing so hard. This wasn’t working! I felt driven to do this but was getting nowhere.

A gong rang. Everyone gathered their things up quickly and streamed out into the bright day, chattering . The area we emerged into was mostly paved, but there were occasional benches on little areas of grass with flowers, bushes, and an occasional a lone tree. There were huge numbers of people there, all coming from different buildings and streaming toward … something — I didn’t know what. The people were different ages, nationalities, colors. Some seemed happy, some sad, many perplexed, even some frustrated and overheated like me. We were like the pens I had been working with — no permutation was missing. We were gradually funnelling into a single walkway, with light-colored (kind of tan, kind of gold) walls on both sides. The sun shone brightly on the wall to the right.

As we passed a stylized metal sculpture of god/dess (it was impossible to tell which) hanging on the wall, some people were pausing to pray aloud or to discuss it. I paused too, but didn’t do either of those things. I held out my cupped, upward-turned hands to the god/dess, not knowing if I was offering something or begging. It felt like both. The god/dess’s eyes sparkled as she/he looked at me and he/she grinned.

In that moment…

Briefly…

I understood.

I got it fully.

No, I can’t explain it. Some things (quite a lot of them, in fact) don’t fit into words. The only way you can put them into words is to chop bits off — which is not something one should (or can) do with god/dess. To do so simply lessens understanding rather than enhancing it.

The people around me fell silent as they saw the god/dess grinning gleefully at me from that formerly neutral, stylized face. I turned away from the pressure of their intent but unspoken demands for explanations that it was not possible to give.

A small, brown, round-faced child suddenly grinned up at me with exactly the same look of glee and joy that god/dess had. He had it! I woke up suddenly and jumped out of bed. Then I just stood there, smiling and smiling for no reason at all. It was like everything that had been jangled inside me was suddenly humming smoothly.

It’s feeling, but it’s much more than feeling. It’s much more than words. It’s that moment of total connections — and something more.

It is what it is.

Who's a mycelium then?

Mushrooms under Fir

I wonder some things…
For instance… my grandmother,
my granddaughter. Some might say,
if they saw what I’ve seen,
that this child is Gran’ma’s dharma heir,
and neither of them know the word “dharma”.
And some would say that one
is the reincarnation of the other,
if they saw what I’ve seen.

I had an odd little experience a couple of evenings ago. I was on an inner journey to talk to the goddess in her aspect of the crone. (I often refer to the crone as “grandmother” and have great affection for her.) On this night, when I addressed her as Grandmother, my own Gran’ma Susie (mother’s mother) was suddenly there beside the goddess, just to the right of her.

She was smiling a contained little smile with such a twinkle behind it — you could just tell she was trying not to burst out laughing. That expression is so well-remembered, and I’ve seen that same smile on my granddaughter’s face. It was there a lot when Megan was a small merry person full of jokes. Gran’ma liked to deliver her jokes and outrageous puns with a straight face — or nearly straight — and Megan does the same. Anyway, Gran’ma was standing there, atwinkle and beaming, and I was just plain startled to see her.

I used to see or hear her often before Megan was born, but I had, we had reasons to think that perhaps my grandmother had reincarnated as my granddaughter — keeping herself in the family, as it were. A whole range of psychics, channels, mediums, clairvoyants, shamans and what not have told us over the years, first, that Gran’ma would be coming back as my son’s child, then later on that she was then taking the first steps to manifest that, and then after Megan’s birth, over and over that Megan was strongly connected to her. This information was always volunteered, never asked for by one of us.

In her turn, even as a very small child, Megan had that half-teasing smile, along with the strength, courage, wry sense of humor, and lovingness that one would expect if she were indeed Gran’ma come back. But here Gran’ma stood, feet planted firmly on the earth of my inner world, “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed” as we say in my family and very much herself.

“You’re surprised to see me, aren’t you?”

I nodded and hesitantly admitted that I thought she had reincarnated.

“Well, I won’t say I haven’t, exactly. But I won’t say that I have, either.”

To say I was puzzled would be understating the matter. I was even more baffled when Megan abruptly appeared to the left of the goddess. She is ten years old now. Gran’ma looked to be in her 50s — about the age she was when I had the years that Megan has now. It was easy to see the resemblance: the eyes, the way the hair curls, their hands, the feel of them both — a fierce and deep compassionate love they both hold for others, leavened by humor and a charm that I suspect comes from just loving people and the world in general.

(I remember that when Gran’ma was dying and I was sitting with her in the hospital, one of the very last things she did was to look up at me and with an obvious effort breathlessly said, “I love you all. I love each of each of you.” She struggled to say more and couldn’t, so I tried to help. “Do you want me to tell everyone that for you?” She immediately relaxed, smiled, and a tiny nod said all I needed to know. Then her eyes shut. After that, she slipped into a coma and was soon gone. And when she was gone, I spent a couple of days calling each of her children, her grandchildren, and her great-grand children and telling every one of them, “Gran’ma Susie said to tell you she loves you.” It wasn’t exactly the easiest thing I’ve ever done, but it was one of the most rewarding. And educational.)

But to come back to the present… here Gran’ma is, and there Megan is. Alike as two peas, but in different pods — or the same pod, strung out over time. Or something. Are they the same person or not? Is there linearity here or not? I just don’t know.

The Crone Goddess steps back and somehow reaches around all three of us, pulling us into a tight hug — so tight that we all melted together for a timeless time. It was indescribable.

Then we separated again and looked at each other for one of those forever moments. And Megan and Gran’ma both faded away. The Crone, whose eyes were both Gran’ma’s and Megan’s eyes, asked. “Did you understand that?”

“With my heart, perhaps, but not with my head!”

She nodded and said, “That’s all that’s needed. But here is a picture for you to play with.” An image blossomed in my mind — tiny mushrooms in a faery ring. For a moment I was puzzled. I’ve been learning about fungi recently and they are truly fascinating. What we see above the ground are not individuals. Under the earth, they connect with each other, sharing their roots and underground structure in one much larger being. The things we see are just the fruit of that being, deeply rooted in their living self. Although the mushrooms we see are separate in appearance, in reality there is just one, and we do not see much of it at all.

That larger underground being does vital things to support the life of trees and other plants. The network of the mycelium, the living body of the fungus underground, is really just beginning to be scientifically studied and faintly understood. Scientists have ideas about how mycelium helps the trees, may even be a communication network between them, how it makes the soil fertile and nourishing for all plants — and how it does some other quite magical-sounding things. And did you know, that there is more biomass (living material) under the surface of the earth than there is on top of it? Much more! I didn’t, and am still stunned by that.

However, to come back to what happened in my lunar cycling meditation, this explains a lot about the relationship between Gran’ma and Megan, and yes, even me, without me being able to quite articulate it. I had been thinking of us as being something like pearls on a string with other beads or gems between us. But…

…from the online Urban Dictionary: chronosynclastic infundibulum ~ n. A point in space where, upon a person entering it, that person’s existence in space-time ceases to be linear, becoming discrete. This means that a person that has entered a chronosynclastic infundibulum exists at multiple points and lines in space-time. For example, such a person could exist at all points in time in one place and also appear at another point for five minutes.

And Verbotomy.com says: ~n. A place, or a moment, where all the different kinds of truths fit together, and where there are many different ways to be absolutely right about everything.

It has been so many years since I read the book — it seems that perhaps chronosyclastic infundibulum was both of those things and more, just as the ideas of reincarnation and dharma heirs and mycelium are all true of this and all other relationships, but not even the three together tell the whole story.

What if we are all chronosynclastically infundibulated all the time, and only our indecision (or something) keeps us from realizing it? What if all this is related to the ideas on non-local consciousness and natural magic? (This may be too much thinking for a Libra…)

Early Morning LabyrinthineTravels

Before I begin I must mention that I’m going to insert a photo in this before I post it. WordPress was doing something silly with photos e-mailed to subscribers, and this is a test to see if that is fixed. If you wind up with a lot of strange babble (code) after the next paragraph, I invite you to read the real post on the website at http://www.jesalog.com with a proper photo.Thank you!

I am having the most delightful morning and it has barely begun. Dutifully checking my e-mail first thing, it began with a message from SecondLife saying that my partner-in-landscaping had returned a couple of building blocks (prims) to me, so I went in to see what he was up to. He had built a small island—white sand, rock, palm trees—that was just perfectly suited to the purpose we’d been discussing. It was a delightful surprise for first thing in the morning. I stood there on our island and watched the two ships he’d also built cross paths behind the new island, which is so perfect that I cannot imagine that it hasn’t always been there waiting for the fog to lift so we could see it.

That reminded me that I’d promised to look for a photo of the isle of Iona that we could use to build another island. So off I went on the wings of Google Search to look for photos of my beloved Iona and one of the first things I saw was a large photo of a labyrinth on Iona. How astounding! I just sat and looked at it. There was never a labyrinth on Iona in all the years I visited there and roamed all over the tiny isle.

Labyrinths are special. I’ve never been to one without having a truly exceptional and personally memorable experience. And I’ve never been to one without a friend beside me.

The labyrinth in Iona—what a brilliant thing someone has done! I immediately copied the photo and made it my wallpaper so I can gaze upon it for refreshment during the day. Then I looked up the source of the photo, and found Waymarkers, a lovely blog which was not only rewarding reading, but which had another photo of a labyrinth, this one on Whidbey Island. I didn’t know there was a labyrinth on Whidbey either. Now I do.

Whidbey is just across a small stretch of water from where I live—about a fifteen minute ferry ride. I could actually go to Whidbey! So then I discovered that the writer of the blog, Mary, lives in Seattle and leads pilgrimages to Iona and to Whidbey Island and other places in the Pacific Northwest. I want to read her book, Waymarkers: Collected Prayers, Poems & Reflections for the Pilgrimage to Iona by Mary A DeJong.

And now I’m remembering that when I was last on Iona with friends, the hotel we were in also had a group of visitors on a pilgrimage from Whidbey Island to Iona—not one of Ms DeJong’s but another. I can probably find out who and see if they are still doing retreats on Whidbey. I’d love to walk a labyrinth again if I can.

Now, here I am, quite early in the morning before breakfast, having been to Isla del Gatos in SecondLife, to a labyrinth on Iona in the Inner Hebrides in the West of Scotland, to another labyrinth on Whidbey Island here in my neighborhood, to looking out of my own windows and seeing flickers of early sunlight among the trees.

You cannot beat a morning like that!

Lineage & Hands


Megan’s Hands On My Altar Stone

Here I am this morning:
reading Mary Oliver,
having fits of ecstasy
at the beauty on the page —

and feeling that
I have wasted my life.
I am 75 and still
cannot write so exquisitely!

It’s all about seeing,
looking past the surface
into the layers of kinship
and deep story.
And yet —

Yesterday,
my granddaughter and I
sat in my garden and compared
our hands, the shapes and lines,
hers, young and smooth,
no more than a tracery of
the dominant pattern —
and mine, old and full of living,
a spider’s crazed web
between the main lines —
yet those deepest ones
forming a pattern
quite like Megan’s.

Once, many years ago,
I did that with my grandmother,
and we, too, found that our hands
were uncannily alike.

When Megan was birthing
and I was rushing
to be there to greet her,
I heard a voice say,
“She has your hands.
You women are like
pearls on a string,
and the lineage endures.”

I told Megan this yesterday. She is ten,
and her eyes grew wide as she listened,
as mine had ten years before
when I saw a line stretching
back and back into the mist
of pearls and hand prints —
healer’s hands.

So, perhaps it was
not wasted after all, this life,
but simply a pearl to be found on a string.

© Copyright 2013 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved.

Buddhism on Wings

or
How I Became Kinda Buddhist

Once upon a time, many ages ago when I was in my thirties, I was walking back to my office in San Diego on a blustery spring day. Stray scraps of paper were leaping and dancing in the gusty wind. It was a game to grab them as they passed by and then tuck them neatly in the next trash can. In the distance, one, about a half of a page, lifted lightly into the air. Something about it caught me—it swooped so low and twirled so high and with such lithesome grace, never quite touching the ground or the buildings. As I continued walking, I watched it, hoping it would come close enough to catch. Its wild gyrations carried it up almost to the roof level of two-story buildings before spiraling down—and rising again. It pirouetted at roof height right across the street before diving down and back the way it had come. With a sudden reverse, it swerved toward me… and gently settled against my chest.

I stood there, stunned, for a moment as it nestled there, held close by the breeze, until I reached slowly up and peeled it carefully from my breast. The first side was blank. The other side had been written on in hard pencil, not easy to read as it flapped gently in my hand. I smoothed it against a handy wall and held it there. It was a simple list of eight concepts, each with a few words of explanation after it. They were Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration.

I remember that the first was “Right View. To see things as they really are. To see the true nature of all things.” I don’t remember the exact wording of the others, but as I read down through the list, I became quite excited. Here, concise and clear, was a description of the path I’d been trying to follow in my own fumbling way. It was like hearing a huge bell ring, the kind that makes your bones vibrate. For several minutes, I just stood there on the street, reverberating. Carefully, I rolled the paper and carried it to my office where I sat and just looked at it until it was almost time for the next client. I can’t say I was thinking or reading— just there, gently humming like a Tibetan bowl being rung.

My office consisted of three main rooms—the front, public room where I taught classes and met individual clients for counseling, the middle room for healing and massage, and the private back room for paperwork and writing. I took the page to the back room and pinned it to the wall above my desk so I only needed to raise my eyes to see it.

Gradually, it became a habit to look at it whenever there was an important decision to make. The checklist helped me keep on track more easily. Then it seemed obvious to begin applying it more widely. Did what I wrote, the classes I prepared, my actions and reactions concerning clients and students measure up to those standards? One of the first things learned (from a Sufi) was that “right” in this context meant “most appropriate, most loving, most healing.” It was a constant challenge, and I fell by the wayside a lot.

About a half a year or so later, a fellow teacher was in the back room as we checked through some class plans. He saw the half-sheet and said, “Oh, I didn’t know you were into Buddhism.”

I didn’t know that either and told him so. He said, “But that’s the eightfold path, the core of Buddhism.”

I looked at it and shrugged. “I found this list and use it for a checklist for stuff. It’s what I’m trying to do. I didn’t realize it was Buddhist.” Though I loved and trusted the man, I didn’t feel like telling him about the paper whirling through the air and plastering itself to my heart. If that happened now, I’d think that Faery brought it to me, the spirits of the wind and air, perhaps, and would probably say so, but I was more shy about these things back then.

“I’ll bring you a book about Buddhism. You’ll like it.”

He did, and I did, and it was the first of a number of books I’ve read on Buddhism, mostly Zen, but also other branches growing from the root of the Buddha’s teachings. And I’ve also gone to a number of classes and meetings to try to learn more. Buddhism is vast. But I wouldn’t call myself a Buddhist. If asked and if I have to come up with a “religion” I usually say “Zen Pagan” and leave it at that.

As far as my current practice goes, I’m human and often mess up. I’m still not perfect at those eight simple guidelines. What is “perfection” anyway? The word itself may be a kind of a trap. Eight little guidelines for living and loving, for compassion and healthy relationships with self and universe. Just eight. Amazingly difficult. Subtle, too. They sound so straightforward — and they are, but things have a tendency to complicate in human minds. We seem to have to start from simplicity, go through a great deal of complexity until our understanding expands enough to move on to a higher level of simplicity. It seems like all these lessons are quite simple once we truly get them. And it also seems that once we truly get them, a little time passes and they start complicating again… because there is yet another level to reach that we couldn’t see before we got to this one.

Somewhere along my rather vagabond way through life, the original piece of paper disappeared. I’ve read a lot since then, and applied what felt appropriate. I made and still make mistakes; hopefully, I learn from them. Things are still checked by the “right guidelines” when there is doubt. You’d be astonished at how much time I spend on some of my responses on Facebook as I work through these. Some responses take days to get past the immediate reaction and into a space of reasonable clarity and “rightness”—as best I understand it.

There may be an end to developing wisdom, but I don’t know if humans ever find it or if we have to progress far beyond the limits of the human mind before we get there. In fact, it may be that the consciousness of the entire universe isn’t there yet. I wonder what would happen if the One became fully enlightened—reaching some state we can’t even begin to imagine. What would that do to us, the tiny cells in Its being? Or does enlightenment work the other way and we small cells have to each and every one reach that ultimate Beingness before the One can?

Meanwhile, I’m still working on trying to find the heart of simplicity in the seeming tangle of complexity. We learn interesting things that way. And I watch carefully what the wind brings me.

© Copyright 2013 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved.