Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Gift

"Anything is one of a million paths. Therefore, a warrior must always keep in mind that a path is only a path; if he feels that he should not follow it, he must not stay with it under any conditions. His decision to keep on that path or to leave it must be free of fear or ambition. He must look at every path closely and deliberately. There is a question that a warrior has to ask, mandatorily: 'Does this path have a heart?'" ~ Carlos Castaneda Quotes from The Teachings of Don Juan

Life is too short. It seems like just yesterday that I was four, living in Maine, lying in the grass on a cool Fall's day, intensely aware of the blue sky above me. Pale, green blades of grass streaked with gold rising above the fur of my hood, rustling gently, the sound of wind and the awareness that I was connected, that I was a part of something I could not define at such a tender age, but which I now recognize in remembrance as Oneness.

Learning to be human, living a Military Brat's life, moving every couple of years, learning to "fit in" as I could, always seeming to be different from even those who were raised in the same world I was. Being malleable, changing personality traits depending upon the company, moving on and leaving souls behind like pages in a book fluttering faster and faster, ripped out by the gale-force winds of changing circumstances, environs, and people.

Ten years old and my Grandpa TC's death. Leaving Crete, Greece early so that my father could go home to attend his father's funeral.

Thirteen years old, lying in my bed at night, feeling an intense and almost indescribable feeling of sacrifice, of being adrift in a sea of potentiality, feeling subsumed, permeated with infinite love, infinite giving, infinite possibility.

Fifteen years old, finding Carlos Casteneda's "The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge" sitting in the reading room of an OBGYN office where I was a Red Cross Volunteer, looking across at someone I still know, who was smiling and couldn't stop staring at my big forehead. I didn't wear afros long, after that.

Sixteen, and my Bigmama's death. Mama's terrible cry in the back bedroom as Daddy and I worked on a Star Trek fold-up game I'd gotten, both of us staring into each other's eyes at the sound and jumping up, running back there, knowing something terrible had happened.

Nineteen years old and in the Army, entering a cavernous space within during Morse code training, eight-hour work days spent immersed, connecting at a deeper level to signs and symbols that seemed so archetypal in nature, that became simplistic, mine to express in an instant, leaving all of my classmates far behind.

Twenty, my Bigdaddy's passing. Being a Pallbearer for the first time, eyes shut in remembrance of our talks, him always asking me who the black people were in the Bible, as if he hadn't found it out himself decades before, but loving to talk, his shining soul pouring from his pale, blue eyes like fine wine from a decanter of pure crystal.

Twenty-two years old and astral-projecting into a tropical sea, surround-perception and awareness of the intense coloration of the corals, the nearby fish that seemed to sense my presence yet felt no fear, drifting around me as if I were another outgrowth of brain coral, just a harmless obstacle to be navigated around.

Immersing myself in the world of experience. Flirting with death and dissolution, seeking solace in the arms of others, the spirits of plants manifest through drugs and alcohol, not needing validation or seeking to fill some interpersonal hole, but experiencing for the sake of the experience itself, because I could, and was there, and was living.

These early lifetime experiences forming the basis for later explorations at all levels. The continuing educational journey through HS, college and Grad School, culminating in my present circumstances which should be the final hurdle before reaching the apex of my career development, from which point I will be able to manifest what is within me fully, whatever that ends up being. Because I am a writer, am an artist, a musician, scientist and scholar, a synthesis of all of these interests might allow me to create something unique, from a perspective not expressed widely.

Don Juan's wisdom is transformatory. The Path of the Warrior brooks no wavering. It requires clarity. Decisiveness. Making decisions and following them with no looking back, no regrets, no vacillation. Life is too short to spend it in the Past or Future when the Present holds all the promise that exists in Creation and beyond.

The difficulty of doing so is known to us all by direct experience. Our perception of the world is constantly trying to distract us from the Now through the workings of our minds; our Egos, inordinately concerned with regrets about the Past and worries about the Future, obscuring the moment. Slicing through those illusory concerns leaves us Awakened.

But being Awake provokes despair. Fear, again, in a last gasp of defiance, tells us, "This is the world as it really is, and it has both a beautiful and an ugly face, filled with wonder and horror, and the deck really is stacked against you. You traverse blood-thirsty brambles and dark canyons of malice, and chasms open up around you at every turn, threatening you with failure, with despair. Self-hatred works in opposition to your visions of Perfection and you wonder what it's all for, what it's all worth, in the End that you cannot see, cannot understand and, really, cannot even conceive of beyond some surface level understanding of theoretical spaces beyond vision that lie somewhere beyond the sky, and within the confines of the earth. Who do you think you are? G-d?"

A million paths become one. Our lives lead us inexorably toward Death, who waits, patiently, until our prescribed time arrives, at which point he ushers us dutifully toward the biggest change of state that we will ever experience in life. There is no room for fear when our eyes are wide open. Everything becomes a matter of urgency, a matter of the utmost importance. From what we eat every day, to the words we say when we're speaking to others. From the decisions we make about what to buy or not, to the path we decide to take home from work on any given day. Everything becomes meaningful. Filled with the potential for Love, and for direct manifestation of the soul's urges, which are human and world-centered, yet Divinely otherworldly in aspect and degree.

Forty years old, and my Grandma left this plane of existence. The graveyard in some small, country town in Texas is one of the most beautiful places on earth, to me. Big skies and red dirt, a dying town and dozens of cousins whom I haven't seen in years, gathered around, kindly attentive despite my absence from family gatherings over the years, and circumstances which have left us in different worlds that rarely converge. A biting wind rolling over the funeral, the tent pavilion whipping frantically as stinging particles of red dirt assail us coming from the West. Daddy said later that it was Grandma, and she wanted us to get out of there - as ever, not wanting to cause a fuss - because she knew the drama that was coming after. I knew it broke her heart to see it.

The present, and Death still threatens comfort and complacency, as always. Life is too short. Those we love won't be with us for long. Every decision we make counts. It's never too late to say you're sorry. Relationships are what it is all about, and when those people we love are gone, we won't be able to hold them, to kiss them, to tell them that we love them, and to confess the deepest truths of our hearts and souls - and to bear witness to the confession of theirs - to the ones who love us and have loved us and will love us till the End of Forever draws close.

Those recognized moments of Oneness still happen, and the thought of those moments, events, snapshots of Life that led directly to this instant juxtapose in meaning, providing an underlying and resonant vibration of Purpose to the clarity of the Now. Pain and heartache are certain. Laughter and peace are as well. But between all lies the middle path of acceptance, of openness, of being intensely aware of what, where and who we are, and accepting all that comes to us with a giving and loving heart that knows no boundaries of possibility, seeking resonance and reflection in each other and the world and cosmos that hold us each close, whispering sweet lullabies of yearning and transcendence, soothing our souls as we rush headlong into the Abyss.

the Present holds all the promise that exists

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