“From a higher level of existence all of this is just an organic process that has both good and bas aspects to it. It has purpose and is leading us somewhere.”
Bob Frissell

Nothing in this Book is True, but it's Exactly How Things Are

How Electricity Actually Works

n

I remember when I studied electronics and electricity in high school I was able to do the math ( V = IR ). It was presented to me as something “very intuitive” but it didn’t feel intuitive to me … and I didn’t dare to ask, because if it was “obviously intuitive” and I wasn’t getting it then something was obviously wrong with my intuition … then 30 years later a group of youtubers argue openly about it … and well:

Posted in Intake, outside, Tech Stuff | You are welcome to add your comment

Born to fight

n

Michael was overjoyed to see him. No one had known exactly where Isaac was, or if he was going to make it back. Other young men from the kibbutz had been arriving and disappearing into the war, and it seemed there were questions being asked about the ones who still hadn’t shown up. Maybe not even asked aloud, but implied. These kids had been raised to fight. It was what the Jewish people required, so that what happened before couldn’t happen again. Were they going to do what was expected?

Michael wasn’t just happy to see his son again, he was relieved. He said something that Isaac never forgot, and which he repeated to me in a little kibbutz house a few hundred yards away from where this moment had happened forty-seven years before. He’d repeated the sentence, turning it over in his head, many times. His father said, “I’m so happy you came to the war.”

Isaac loved his father until his death. He keeps a large photograph of him, one he took himself, on the wall. But he never forgot those words—the way his father was willing to sacrifice him, the idea that there were things more important than his only living son. It’s an unsettling story, one of our oldest, from Genesis. If this were a novel, the character of the boy would have to be named Isaac, but in a novel you wouldn’t dare call him that. It would be too much.

… Now he was in the catastrophe, where he belonged.

… There’s a blurry time at the end of a battle when no one’s certain it’s over, and the blurriness can get you killed … the battle is over only when you’re sure that all the enemy soldiers are dead.

Matti Friedman – Who By Fire – Leonard Cohen in the Sinai

i was born into this … into an embattled people
my parents tried to take me away from it … but were drawn back into it
i was raised to become this way … but it didn’t take
it seems I was born to not fight
for a long time, I fought fighting
until I awoke to the irony
reflecting now on this sheds yet another light on my aloneness
even as an adult I still get uncomfortable around two other adults fighting
I check to make sure that it doesn’t have anything to do with me
only to find it doesn’t matter … I am deeply disturbed by fighting
my father is a fierce fighter

Posted in About, Myself | You are welcome to add your comment

The Art Of Life

n

Because sometimes you have to make a film about the man you just met on the beach

a gift from Anna-Maija

Posted in Enjoy, inside | You are welcome to add your comment

Celebration and … the Sacred?

n

Maija asked me recently about my relationship with celebrating … and I am generally uncomfortable around celebration. Today I encountered these two stories from Rick Rubin, a master of delicacy. The first story sets the context for the second story and the second story (wait for it after the song and forgive the clumsy but well-intentioned interviewer) speaks subtly and intimately to one subtle aspect of celebration that makes me feel uncomfortable.

The stories appear at 1:38:20
(I don’t recommend the interview as a whole, there are better encounters with Rick Rubin out there).

Posted in Fragments, inside | You are welcome to add your comment

Realms Beyond Reason

n


” … the crisis is being caused by the inadequacy of existing forms of thought to cope with the situation. It can’t be solved by rational means because the rationality itself is the source of the problem … the solution to the problem isn’t that you abandon rationality but that you expand the nature of rationality …

We’re living in topsy-turvy times, and I think that what causes the topsy-turvy feeling is inadequacy of old forms of thought to deal with new experiences …

You look back at the last three thousand years and with hindsight you think you see neat patterns and chains of cause and effect that have made things the way they are. But if you go back to original sources, the literature of any particular era, you find that these causes were never apparent at the time they were supposed to be operating. During periods of root expansion things have always looked as confused and topsy-turvy and purposeless as they do now.

… Moon exploration doesn’t involve real root expansions of thought. We’ve no reason to doubt that existing forms of thought are adequate to handle it. It’s really just a branch extension of what Columbus did. A really new exploration, one that would look to us today the way the world looked to Columbus, would have to be in an entirely new direction …

… Like into realms beyond reason. I think present day reason is an analogue of the flat earth of he medieval period. If you go too far beyond it you’re presumed to fall off, into insanity …

But what’s happening is that each year our old flat earth of conventional reason becomes less and less adequate to handle the experiences we have and this is creating widespread feelings of topsy-turviness. As a result we’re getting more and more people in irrational areas of thought – occultism, mysticism, drug changes and the like – because they feel the inadequacy of classical reason to handle what they know are real experiences.”

Robert Pirsig – Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Posted in Quality, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance | Tagged , | You are welcome to add your comment

Who By Fire – Leonard Cohen, Israel … and I

n

I’ve been distantly aware that Leonard Cohen visited Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur war and sang for soldiers in the desert. So I went into this podcast episode about this event with a sense of curiosity. The story is told with care and subtlety and I look forward to reading the book.

My curiosity was fulfilled … and then some. I found myself immersed in a wholesome telling of a story of the world I was born into. I was 9 months old when my father suddenly disappeared for 6 months into this war. I know nothing of this world. I do not have childhood memories. Yet this is the world that shaped me.

After listening to it I spoke to my parents and they corroborated the story. I learned, for the first time, that this is why some years later (when I was 8) we moved to the USA. I did not know that my parents (mostly my mother) were trying to escape the anxiety of living in Israel. I learned that for my father, the anxiety of how to provide for his family in a new and unknown place & culture was greater than the anxiety of being physically in war. I also learned that they chose to move back to Israel because they felt the USA was less safe for their three young children than living in the persistent anxiety (and physical danger!) that comes from living in a place like Israel.

Listening to this evoked deep and wide reflections. How did this contribute to the gross and subtle difficulties I’ve had breathing most of my life? How did this contribute to my deeply rooted and persistent feeling of insecurity? Did I dream of being an astronaut because that would have put the greatest possible distance between myself and all this? Having failed to become an astronaut, was retreating to a Romanian village a feasible resolution to the problem? Though I lived near physical violence I was never subjected to it directly … and if this is how I feel, how do people who directly experienced violence feel? If this is how I feel having grown up on the powerful side of the conflict – what is being shaped right now by the historically inevitable violence Israel inflicts on Palestinians? Witnessing this perpetuating cycle sometimes brings me to tears and sometimes to a deep and peaceful stillness.

This also meets me as I am witnessing the war in Ukraine. I have noticed how I feel different in my surroundings. Having been born into war and lived most of my life in an embattled country I am predisposed and accustomed to the mental presence of war. When I look around me I realize that most people are not. I am also experiencing a sharper and embodied understanding of and respect for the embattled nature (and violence) of the state of Israel. I observe (from a safe distance) how Ukrainian refugees are facing uncertainty about if and how they will be received in whatever country they arrive – will they be let in? And I then realize with shocking clarity that there is only one group of refugees that are guaranteed shelter by law (an unfair law that excludes anyone else, including Palestinians who lived on lands that Jews currently call Israel) – Ukrainian Jews are, by law, guaranteed a safe haven in Israel … within its perennial anxiety and violence.

And though it is difficult for me to imagine living in Israel, I have also felt in my bones how this pertains to me. Though I do not feel personally threatened here in Romania (living 75km from the city from which my grandparents were taken to concentration camps during WWII) I have felt (on 2 or 3 occasions) how thin the veil of society is and how little it takes for it to tear and for anti-semitism to manifest. And I feel that both the society that physically surrounds me and societies all around the planet are heading into treacherous times that will likely introduce more than a little stress and tearing. And I wonder: how much of this feeling is rooted in being born into the war Leonard Cohen walked into?

Posted in About, Enjoy, inside, Myself | Tagged | You are welcome to add your comment

Yoga Practice Charts 2021

n

In some past Yoga check-ins, I tried using graphs to illustrate how my sense of well-being fluctuates. The graphs were created in retrospect and I invented data to try to express how I felt. In 2021 I initiated a journaling experiment to see what real data might look like. I use a spreadsheet to collect both qualitative indicators and textual notes.

In this post, I will describe the journaling process and share charts that describe the second half of the year 2021. In the future, I intend to periodically (probably quarterly) reflect and report in this way on my practice.

Quantitative Indicators

The first set of indicators are qualitative and describe how my feeling changed compared to the previous day. A negative number indicates a decline and a positive number indicates an improvement. I adopted the following value framing:

  • 1 indicates a slight, barely noticeable change.
  • 2 indicates a slight but clearly noticeable shift.
  • 5 indicates a minot shift.
  • 10 indicates a major shift.

I move within this basic framework to numerically express the change I am experiencing.

These are the qualitative indicators I journal:

  1. Phsyical vitality
  2. Physical strength
  3. Physical flexibility
  4. Physial lightness
  5. Breath strength
  6. Breath flexibility
  7. Breath open-ness of channels
  8. Presence

Qualitative Journaling Points

  1. Modality of practice (Healing/Health/Beyond)
  2. Life events that took place the previous day and stood out in my awareness in a way that may have affected my sense of well-being
  3. Emtional observations
  4. Physical observations
  5. Breath observations
  6. Presence observations
  7. Other notes

Asana & Pranayama Practice Journaling

For asana practice, I have mapped a group of columns that correlate each to either specific asana or groups of asana that make up my practice. I then use a number (a rating based on the above-mentioned 1,2,5,10 framework) in each to indicate the intensity and quality within the practice. This is of course subjective (the numbers don’t even offer any equivalency between different asana) but within a constant frame. The sum of those numbers says something about the breadth and depth of the practice. I sometimes also add some comments about the practice or its development.

For pranayama, I notate the actual breathing practice (using breathing formulas) and also give the practice an overall numeric value which is for charting its evolution.

Aggregating & Charting

The following indicators are aggregated and charted:

  1. The physical indicators are aggregated into one indicator.
  2. The breathing indicators are aggregated ito one indicator.
  3. The presence indicator is used as is.
  4. An integrated indicator is created for physical + breath + presence.
  5. An asana practice indicator is generated by summing up the asana indicators. Zero means I did not do an asana practice.
  6. The pranayama indicator is used as is. Zero means I did not do a pranayama practice.

These indicators are normalized to create a unified chart. However, the chart has no y-axis because the values are not really significant or comparable. There is, for example, no meaning to compare physical well-being to breath well-being. The integrated indicators is slightly raised compared to the base indicators for presentation purposes only.

Each monthly chart includes 10 days from the previous month and 10 days from the following month to allow for overlapping that can give some context to what occurred within the month.

2021 Monthly Charts

2021 Yearly Charts

Observations

It has been interesting to look at these charts, especially the overall half-year perspective and reflect on what the chart shows and how it correlates to my lived experience.

  1. Allergy – I started the journaling process as I was coming out of the allergy period which is a low point in the year. This is confrmed by the overall rise throughout the year. I feel this is a recurring yearly cycle though I do believe its form has changed over the years. I believe that this “allergy dip” has become more moderate (not falling as much), falls more gradually and less like a collapse, is overall shorter and the recovery is quicker. I am curius to see what future years bring both in terms of my direct experience and what the charts may show.
  2. Emotional Volatility – I experienced a lot of emotional volatility and fluctuation over the year. In my awareness this relates both to my personal sphere of existence and my perceived state of the world within my limited information intake. This is reflected in the continuous fluctuation of both asana & pranayama practice. My body and breath seem to absorb and express these fluctuations.
  3. Breath Sensitivity – at first look there seems to be a discrepency between the breath and pranayama graphs. Within my subjective experience my breath has not been well for quite some time. But when I think and say “not well” is needs to be put into perspective. It is “not well” in relation to my past perception of the potential of my breath. So even when I describe my breathing as “not well” it is still in in pretty good shape. Within this state-of-breath, relatively small fluctuations in my nostril-blockage and chest tightness can severely impact my pranayama. This is why the overall breath indicator is fairly steady but the actual pranayama practice fluctuates.
  4. Breath Blockage – Something in my mentality towards breath has shifted. I used to be in a “healing” mindset towards breath and I have slowly moved away from that. I have realized that my breath has been challenged in some way for most of my life. It expressed primarily as somewhat blocked nostrils and secondarily as tightness in the chest. My lived expereince is that my breathing difficulties are subtly correlated to stress and anxiety. Living in retreat has made stress and anxiety relatively subtle – which means I notice and am more sensitive to smaller fluctuations. In addition to that the emotional fluctuations of the past year have introduced a heaviess and lack of vitality which also negatively effects my breathing. I believe that changes to my overall life and well-being are both reflected in my breath and the key to improving it. So, I have settled into a posture of embrace and acceptance of my breath as it is. I try to inhabit it as best I can without applying any ambition to it.
  5. Body & Breath:
    1. Diminished breathing capacity (reflected as drops in Pranayama) is usually the reason for diminished asana practice. The pranayama and asana graphs either drop together or a drop in pranayama is followed by a drop in asana.
    2. Then, recovery in asana leads to a recovery of breath and pranayama. The asana graph usually rises before the pranayama graph.
    3. In this charted period I am still able to practice a moderated asana practice when my pranayama is diminished or absent. These periods when my breath and body feel diminishes create the conditions for practicing presence: if I am not present asana practice has a negative effect on my breath. So in order to practice I need to be attentive, soft and and caring with my body and breath.
  6. Steady presence and attention – it seems that while my body and breath absorb my emotional fluctuation my sense of presence has been fairly steady. It does fluctutate, it is clearly effected by more extreme emotional fluctuations, but overall I have felt, within this emotionally tumultous period, stable. I attribute this primarily to the Samkhya study process which has had a surprising effect on me (I still find it hard to believe how study of a text can have such an effect). I also attribute this to the mental shift (see 4 above) in relation to the breathing blockage. The shift from “fixing it” to “inhabitting it” also caused a shift from “applying force to it” to “softening into it” and that too has had a stabilizing effect on my sense of presence.
Posted in Uncategorized, Yoga, Yoga & I, Yoga & Life | You are welcome to add your comment

Greg Bryant on Generative Sequences

n

I feel that generative sequences are one of the most overlooked and valuable discoveries in Christopher Alexander’s work. When you learn to see them for what they are you can find examples of them everywhere and then you can increasingly notice when/where they are missing.

I have adopted an attitude in which I assume that if I am unclear about what to do next, it is because I am lacking orientation in a generative sequence that can guide me. Instead of just trying out to figure what to do next NOW, I am curious about my place in a generative sequence.

I feel that discovering or creating generative sequences is very rewarding work … potentially a form of art!

Posted in Nature of Order, Quality | Tagged , , | You are welcome to add your comment

בדל של אור

n

אני מופתע כיצד האלבום הזה נגע ונוגע בי
הוא מעורר בי תחושה של תרבות עתיקה שאולי עוד תקום
הוא מעורר בי תחושה של שייכות עתיקה ושל שייכות עתידית שכבר עבורי כנראה לא תוגשם
הוא מעורר בי מחשבות אודות קהילה רחבה, עמוקה ומהותית

Posted in Enjoy, Expanding, inside | You are welcome to add your comment

Custodial Relation to a Sentient Landscape

n

This morning I wrote this in a Samkhya journal entry:

The text itself is not a body of knowledge. It is a place-holder, a seed around which knowledge can crystallize. The knowledge is held in a kind of morphic field of all the teachers and students who have together engaged and explored the text and brought it into their lives. The actual knowledge crystallizes over lifetimes of intimate exploration.

In an earlier revision of the post there was more about how Samkhya reaches back into antiquity, how it originated in oral cultures … and now I read this:

… Archives are great, but they are only temporary. The Egyptians learned that the hard way.
The only sustainable way to store data long-term is within relationships – deep connections between generations of people in custodial relation to a sentient landscape, all grounded in a vibrant oral tradition. This doesn’t need to replace print, but it can supplement it magnificently – those two systems might back each other up rather than merely coexist. Relationships between systems are just as important as relationships within them. Oral traditions grounded in profound relationships represent a way of thinking that backs up your knowledge in biological peer-to-peer networks and provides a firewall against dictators who might decide to burn down your libraries. It also mixed things up cognitively and allows your brain to rewire itself in more healthy ways. I call this way of thinking kinship-mind.

Tyson Yunkaporta – Sand Talk

The phrase “custodial relation to a sentient landscape” has a strange reverberation. It feels like it points to truth but has no anchor in my lived experience. Most of conscious-me has no idea what this really means … in an embodied, grounded way. Thinking about it doesn’t make it better: I have a feeling that most of unconscious-me doesn’t know about this either:

  • The tribe I was born to has been without a relationship to a “Sentient Landscape” for around 2000 years.
  • The land to which my tribe was supposedly related to has been decimated over that period of time. Historically it is said to have been an abundant landscape. Now it is mostly barren and harsh.
  • When “my tribe” awoke to their need for land they embarked on a violent journey that may have earned them access to this land, but came with a heavy spiritual price. They do not seem to treat the land as sentient.

And yet I sense a truth in the phrase “custodial relation to a sentient landscape.” I have tried to come into such a relationship with the land that currently holds me. I never felt comfortable “owning it.” I have tried to be a steward to it, but that hasn’t worked out too well either (I’ve really only been able to keep others from exploiting it).

And I think about the teachings that resonate most with me, Yoga and Samkhya. These come from other lands, lands I’ve never set foot on (in this physical body).

The only land I really know is my own physical body. But what is it without earth-land? Where is the earth from which I came? Where does it belong? My felt experience is that it doesn’t.

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סתיו כמו חורף

n

גל של קור עבר פה בימים האחרונים
הלילות קפואים, התנור בוער בבוקר
יבש בחוץ, האדמה קשה
השמש גם היא ביקרה בימים האחרונים
כמעט כל יום יצאתי החוצה וישבתי לקרוא עטוף בקרניה

אני פוגש שוב את החיוניות בתרגול
זו איכות שמופיעה מעצמה כשהתרגול ממושך וכשהלב שקט
לא חוויתי אותה מזה כשנתיים
בשנה שעברה בזמן זה הרגשתי מתפורר מהקשר עם יוליה
הנשימה הייתה שבורה וגם הלב
אז התרגול קיבל איכות של החלמה והכלה
לא הייתי לי גישה לחיוניות שעכשיו שוב מתעוררת

לפני מספר שבועות סיימתי לראשונה את הקריאה של הסמקייה
לא תארתי לעצמי שקריאה של טקסט כלשהו יכולה להשפיע עלי
גיליתי שקריאה אודות פילוסופיה הודית עתיקה השפיעה עלי עמוקות
הרגשתי שהטקסט ראה אותי והכיר בי
זו תחושה מאוד מיוחדת
במיוחד לאור כך שאני לרוב מרגיש בלתי נראה

מזה מספר שנים אני מרגיש שחיי הם כמו סיום של סיפור ארוך מאוד
אני חושב שהשנים האחרונות הם הבשלה וחשיפה של מודעות
מודעות שכנראה נכחה בי בתת-מודע מרבית חיי
אולי תת-מודעות שהתעוררה בי בגיל שלוש כשתבונת גופי החליטה לחסום את נשימתי
וורק בחודשים האחרונים היכתה בי ההכרה שמרבית חיי התקשיתי, בצורה זו או אחרת, לנשום

אני זוכר שעד אמצע שנות השלושים של חיי, חייתי עם תחושה לא נעימה של ביקורת עצמית
הלכתי למעט מוזיאונים, גלריות והצגות, ולא התרשמתי
אני זוכר הצגה אחת שהרגישה כמו פרק גרוע של זהו-זה
אני זוכר שרציתי לעזוב די בהתחלה אך הרגיש לי לא נעים, אז נשארתי
אני זוכר שבסוף הקהל קם על רגליו ומחה מחיאות כפיים סוערות
ואני התסכלתי סביב ולא הבנתי מה כולם רואים שאני אינני רואה
השאלה הזו התפוגגה כאשר ראיתי את שחר רוקד אל מול השמש השוקעת על הדק בנמל תל-אביב
ידעתי אז, שאני כן יודע, כן רואה, וכן מרגיש … אולי אפילו משהו שאחרים לא רואים
במשך שנים רבות אחר כך רציתי לשתף במה שראיתי לדבר על מה שגיליתי
אך הרוב המשיך למחוא כפיים לפרקים גרועים של זהו-זה, אז ויתרתי

הסמקייה משתמשת בדימוי של צופה בהצגת החיים
הצופה מייצג את הרוח, הצגת החיים מייצגת את הטבע
הסמקייה מדברת על התעוררות של הרוח לכך שהיא צופה בהצגה
הסמקייה מדברת על שלב שבו השעיית הספק עצמה מושעית
שלב שבו הרוח מתעוררת לכך שיש צופה ויש הצגה
וכשהרוח מזהה שהיא הצופה ושהחיים הצגה, חווית ההצגה כאילו נפסקת, מאבדת את אחיזתה
ואני מרגיש כך, שראיתי את ההצגה
אינני רואה את הסיפור שהשחקנים על הבמה מנסים לספר
אני רואה שחקנים על במה מנסים לספר סיפור
אינני יכול, כפי שגם לא יכולתי אז, לקום ולמחוא כפיים
משום שנותרתי כאן, בהווה, ברגע, ולא נישאתי אל תוך הסיפור שלא באמת התרחש על הבמה

וכך אני מרגיש שהסמקייה ראתה אותי, זיהתה אותי וחיבקה אותי, ואמרה לי: שלם אתה, היה שלום
ההצגה נמשכת, אך משראיתי אותה, היא איננה סוחפת עוד
בהצגה שנמשכת, הקור והימים הקצרים והמבודדות מותירים את ליבי סדוק מעט
אני מתעורר מוקדם בבוקר, ער לחיוניות השורשית שבוערת בקרבי
אך אני מרגיש כבדות מסוימת שמתנגדת לקימה
אני מחבק את הכבדות ונעטף בשמיכה, ומוצא עוד שעה או שעתיים של מנוחה עמוקה
עד שהאור בחוץ מתגבר,עיניי נפקחות ומתאקלמות לאור וגופי נמתח
ועוד יום של הצגה ללא השעית הספק יוצא לדרך

התרגול מעמיק
המכחול טובל בצבע ומלטף את הנייר
השמש עושה עוד הקפה בשמיים, מסעה הולך ומנמיך ומתקצר מעט כל יום
הכמיהה לקרבה ואינטימיות עם גוף חי אחר נותרת בלתי ממומשת
הכמיהה היא לחוש עור ונשימה ואור ונשמה מקרוב ובצורה ישירה, ללא הצגה
אך פעמים רבות כל כך ביקרתי בהצגה של הכמיהה שגם שם השעיית הספק כבר מעורערת
אך הכמיהה בכל זאת נותרת

שאלתך חלחלה לתוכי
מרגיש לי מהותי שהיא נשאלת בעברית
כבר אינני רגיל להישאל שאלות בעברית
נעים לי לתהות ולענות בעברית
תודה לבנת, ששאלת

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The Erotic as Power

n

This poignant essay contains a beautiful answer to a critical question: how do you know what Good feels like?

a gift from Jennifer

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Mario Batkovic / Accordion

n

I’ve never really liked the accordion. In my consciousness, it was dominated by a metallic sound and an association with folk music which have never appealed to me. But THIS … I still can’t decide if he made the instrument disappear or presented it in all its glory. This feels like an accordion doing what it was really meant to do. It is as if Mario has an intimate understanding of the instrument (both mechanically and spiritually) and what it wants to be. If I close my eyes I see into myself, if I open my eyes I see into the accordion. Mario is a medium.

a gift from Richard Bartlett

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Balance

n

via Bonnitta Roy

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A gift from the mushrooms?

n

I came out of practice and went to the kitchen to take the next step in bread preparation. I was mixing the dough when Iulia stepped out of her room. This was our first encounter of the day.

I stepped back from tending to the bowl on the counter and turn to face Iulia. I consciously and intentionally made myself available to embrace her. I was communicative in my body and in my eyes. But the next step is up to her. I will only embrace her if I feel clearly invited and welcome. She knows this. We talked about it. Many times. She just stood there. Her presence didn’t say yes and didn’t say no. But in the context of touching Iulia, maybe is a clear no. I waited. I gave it time. Breathe. Nothing. OK. I stepped back and continued tending to the bread.

Iulia: why can’t you just offer me an embrace?
Me: I did, and I didn’t feel a yes.
Iulia: why does it need to be …
Me: It was you who …

And we were almost back on track to a very familiar and unpleasant (to me!) pattern of conversation. But then something switched in me. I became amused … and I softly disengaged. No hard feelings. Embrace is OK. No embrace is also OK. Some psycho-babble conversation about why I didn’t offer an embrace … NOT OK!

In that moment I realized a pattern that I was putting a lot of energy into over the last few years in my relationship with Iulia. I usually assume that I am missing something, even when I feel confident that I’ve thought things through rigorously. No matter how right I feel, I still assume that there is a possibility that Iulia is seeing something that I may be blind to. She likes to remind me that I have issues, and she is probably right. So I stay open … and doubt myself.

Not this time. I was very clear in my intentions and actions. I will not just walk up to her and embrace her. That is no longer in the books for us. I wanted to and offered to embrace her. I clearly communicated that to her and she received the message it. For whatever reason, she didn’t say yes. But she didn’t choose to state her reason. I have a tendency to speculate, but even that was suspended. She chose to put it on me. But I felt VERY clear … and the confrontational mushroom experience resurfaced. There, I tried, demanded, begged her to speak to me directly, without evasion, without avoidance, without deflection. The clarity of the mushrooms came back.

In a flash, I recognized all that. In a flash, I recognized and accepted that she has her reasons. In a flash, I recognized that this was not coming from me. In a flash, the potential for a typical confrontation between us dissipated (for me!). I didn’t retreat into darkness. I didn’t feel hurt or attacked. I didn’t feel a need to defend myself or convince her of anything. Things were fine. I felt amused. I smiled. I shared this realization with her …. and got on with my life. I am no longer interested in or available for this kind of communication.

I DID NOT expect to experience a lasting effect from the mushrooms. But there it was! I felt clear about myself. I don’t think a clear line can be drawn between Iulia and me. I can never be sure where I end and she begins. But THAT was not mine! How refreshing!

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5.5 grams

n

On June 22nd I finally experienced psychedelic mushrooms. I’d been thinking about it for a couple of years.

The previous day I was having yet another “dead-end” day with Iulia and I wanted to look into that. But I awoke to the potential late in the day. My stomach was full with dinner. I was confident about going in within the context of our relationship as it was in the present moment. I was not confident that the actual present moment was the right time. It would have been a night trip and I was not sure that was a good choice (and I do not like to disrupt my natural biological rhythms). I spoke to Josh (who has some mushroom experience) about it (and the context in which it was arising) and from our conversation, it seemed that a day-trip (the following day) would probably be better.

I let Iulia know about my decision and asked not to be disturbed. She would be there to look after my physical well-being. I asked her explicitly not to come near me if she is carrying anxiety, fear, worry, or doubt.

I started my next day as usual. However, instead of sitting with the next Samkhya verse, I watched this video ( a gift from Jennifer) about the Hebrew alphabet and how it may hold a key to a meditative physical movement. It was a conscious choice. Samkhya, especially the verses I am currently encountering, felt like a movement towards a hypothetical abstract that currently feels like a slow and heavy movement. A physical manifestation of the Hebrew alphabet felt like reaching into my embodied roots. Roots seemed like a good idea.

Going In

I then went on to my on-the-mat practice and from that transitioned to the mushrooms. I started with a 1.5 gram dose. Chewed it for quite some time and sat quietly with it. After sitting I laid down. Nothing seemed to happen for almost an hour. After an hour I noticed a quietness in my breath. Though I felt clearly involved in the breathing, I also felt a bit removed from it. Being slightly distant from it I felt it become softer, deeper, and eerily silent. Then I had to pee for the first of many times.

I walked out to the large poplar tree across the road. It is the furthest point (~40 meters) I go to pee so it included a “walk.” I felt a bit light-headed and generally light. As I was watering the trees I realized that something was different about the sound of the leaves shaking in the wind. It was loud and sharp.

This was nice, but I wanted to go deeper. I decided to ingest another 1.5 grams. This also took the better part of an hour to take effect. I recall sitting with it and being deeply involved in my breath. I played with jivha, jalandhara bandhas and uddiyana sthana and felt a charge building up inside me. Then the breath took on a life of its own and my body became much more involved … I remember my head slowly moving up and down and that movement projecting down into my spine. I could now switch voluntarily between what felt like two distinct modalities. One was facing inwards, quiet, deep, indulgently nice … where there was less of me. The other was facing outwards where there was more of me … sharp and alert.

I got up to pee again. This time I took the box of mushrooms and the scale and handed them to Iulia in the kitchen. I asked her to prepare for me another 1.5 grams while I went to visit the poplar tree again – this time it would not just be peeing, but also a social visit. Here the experience took a turn.

Confrontation

Iulia has a gift of laughter. It is a beautiful gift that can bring light into darkness. But I have also experienced it as an escape from … well … rigorous and potentially dark inquiry. Now, in the kitchen, on my way out, I met her laughter and it was different. I couldn’t resist it. When she laughed I also had to laugh. Her laughter felt like a physical quality. I turned around, my back facing her, and recall experiencing the laughter in that physical orientation … and I felt as if that “laughing matter” passed into me from behind and up through me. I thought “wow, this is her essence! this is Iulia!”

I went out to my friend the poplar tree and leaned against it. Initially, I closed my eyes and was engulfed by the sound of the leaves. Then I opened my eyes and saw the bark of the tree so vividly. It’s rough infinite texture and so much moss. I ran my fingers over it and heard with amazing clarity the sound of my fingers scraping over the bark.

When I turned around to face the house Tana and Indi were across the street looking at me. Standing, watching, but not coming. I summoned them over and they both came and they both went directly into their “correct” physical positions, manifesting their relationship with me. I was kneeling. Tana sat to my left and bowed her head to be touched. Indi laid down on the ground on my right, slipped her head under my knee, and assumed her place of surrender to me (early in our relationship we had to do some work and she had to learn to surrender to me). But though she assumed a surrendered position she was pawing me demanding attention. I placed my hand on her leg and held her down and immediately connected to an essence of struggle. Indi and I explored struggle together for a few minutes. Again, I felt like I was meeting some kind of essential-matter that was Indi. After a few minutes, we did find stillness together.

I walked back to the house enjoying the enhanced sense of seeing. Everything seemed brighter, sharper, and slightly tinted with a blue-ish cool quality. Iulia left the next 1.5 grams in the kitchen for me, I took them and went back into my room. I ingested that too and as I was chewing it something shifted.

From here on out my recollection has a mixed quality. There are parts that I remember with a feeling of extreme clarity. There are parts that I am not sure happened and there may be things that did happen that I do not recall. Also, the timeline starts to become less clear.

I picked up a scent of incense. I thought I saw Iulia moving around with it. She knows that I am sensitive to incense and am not always open to it. Yet she made a decision to use it. When I sat down again the smell of incense was me … and it was not just a small but a feeling. I called out to Iulia (who was in the other room) and said “please do not do things I did not ask you to do” … no reply. In retrospect, I believe this was a turning point. I do not know if I would have initiated communication with her if it wasn’t for the incense … for the intervention. In my sober-conscious mind, it represents an interventionist pattern, a pattern where she assumes she knows what I think or need. Now, with the mushrooms, uninhibited, I spoke it out.

I was bothered by the lack of reply so I called out “Can you hear me?” … and I recall feeling a change in the silence. It felt like it went from a silence where she didn’t hear me to a silence where she chose not to answer me, to ignore me. I was sitting on the floor and my eyes were closed … still chewing. I became more demanding: I called out asking her to stop ignoring me, and to answer my calls. Eventually, she came into the room. Still chewing.

I started a conversation. She felt distant. Though my eyes were closed I felt like I could see her. Both her words and her body language felt distant to me. I asked her (and would ask many times in the coming hours) to drop the narrative that “I am high on a trip” and to speak to me directly. She was avoiding me. She snapped quickly into her trainer/coach/therapist mode and, no matter my pleas, responded with “this is not about me, it is about you.” Her responses felt violent to me. I became more firm in my talking (though I moved back and forth between speaking loud and clear and whispering). I asked to address and acknowledge the violence I was feeling from her. She avoided … silence. I remember telling her “I did not put that violence in you” and to that, she responded … and her response remains in my consciousness as a pivotal moment, she said, “that is true.”

I ingested her answer and that became a seed in my consciousness. Still chewing. I asked her “Is your statement ‘that is true’ an acknowledgment of the violence?” and this turned into a dance. She avoided it “this is not about me, this is about you” and I refused to turn away or surrender. Eyes closed, still chewing. I felt my own energy rising in intensity (I felt sharp and demanding) and settling into softness (where I felt deeply understanding and accepting of our situation). I tried and tried to reach her … until I accepter her evasion. I remember laughing and saying to her “you thought this was going to be about me, that I was going to have some kind of hallucinatory experience, you did not expect this to become about you.” I felt I could see her, into her, past her … to the events that made her distant. I recall feeling amused and sincerely surprised that this was the direction this experience was going. I expected it to turn inwards … yet it became a deeply relational experience. I felt so whole, so completely me … as I write these words this seems at odds with the so-called “ego-death” … but this did not feel like it was coming from a place of ego … I felt surrendered and indifferent … all that was left was a “Truth of the moment” and I felt like I was speaking from and into that.

I felt a wish for Iulia to sit in front of me and to take my hands so that I could see her. But I felt that she was not available to be seen. I shared with her my wish and that I am not expressing it as a wish becuase I feel she is not available.

I had been watching the time between dosages. I allowed for at least 40 minutes between doses and I tried not to allow for more than an hour to pass … I wanted a build-up and not an extension. Feeling that Iulia was not meeting me in conversation I felt a sense of surrender and settled back into myself. I also realized that I want to go further. I told Iulia I wish to go further and take another gram. I am not sure if her response was immediate or there was more interaction … but I remember her running to the bedroom. I KNEW soooo viscerally she was manifesting mistrust, she was having an opinion about my choice, she thought she knew better and she chose to interfere. This was another turning point.

She got to the bedroom in time to hide the box but I got there quickly. I stood there and felt the mistrust. I realized that it had something in common with her laughter. I felt the mistrust as a physical quality, I could now feel it moving inside me. Then I realized that there was something deeper at play. I felt BECOMING. I BECAME her laughter and now I was BECOMING her mistrust. The extreme open-ness I was experiencing made me susceptible to BECOMING … and I felt and realized it in the moment. Then I felt another quality arising … she was willing to stand in my way … violence! I shared this realization with her … the presence of BECOMING and the potential for violence. I’d intuited this potential when she bolted from the room … now I was feeling it. I knew I would not, could not hurt her, but I knew that if she stood in my way I would go through her.

I spoke it out, I felt very sharp and elaborate and I believe I spoke clearly. And we were back on the theme she avoided minutes ago … violence. I asked her again to acknowledge the violence that she presenced. She refused. I repeated it becoming more demanding … she stood in silence … I repeated it again … and again … I was projecting A LOT of power. She closed her eyes. I demanded that she open her eyes and look at me. She turned away. I moved closer. She moved away. She made a quick gesture (to light a candle?) and I stopped her. I felt her fear. I asked her what she felt RIGHT NOW … silence … avoidance. I brought her to tears. I stepped back with a sense of satisfaction. I said, “good, very good, NOW we are relating, NOW we are together, finally.” There was some silence … and settling.

I was aware that I did not know where the mushrooms were. But I knew they were in the room. The mistrust was vital and alive in me. I told her that I don’t trust her. I felt that if I stepped away from the room it would give her more opportunity to hide the mushrooms from me. We talked. In our conversation the following day, Iulia said she felt that I just wanted “more and more” and I know that not to be true (and I felt that even in the sober conversation the next day, she still didn’t believe me). I was not experiencing any craving or “drug obsession”. I was not able during the trip nor after the trip to convince Iulia that she is relating to her own projections and not to me and my experience. Distant! I clearly wanted to take one more step in. Iulia asked to wait a bit longer before taking the next dose, We reached an agreement.

I remember going back to my room and Iulia coming after me. I remember standing there, face to face. I don’t remember how the conversation started. But I remember pointing with my finger into the space between us … I remember asking, begging, demanding her to acknowledge that she placed violence there in the space between us. “We both did” was the best she could offer … escape … escape escape. Never mind. These conversations don’t go well when “I am sober”, there was not reason to expect it to go well when “I was high.”

However this conversation took some time … so I asked her to go get the last gram. I sat down and she went off. I was feeling sharp and clear and wanted her to be that way. But I heard her bustling around, going from the bedroom to the bathroom … I did not know what she was doing … but the mistrust was still there. I called out to her and said “please do only what you have to do to come here with the mushrooms, I am experiencing every single sound you make right now as deep vibrations of either trust or suspicion.” In the conversation we had afterward she made clear to me that the noises I heard were her trying to get the box out of hiding.

She brought me the last gram on a small plastic tray and I asked her to place it on the floor before me. There it was. This time I did ask her to sit in front of me. She did. My eyes are closed. The gram is between us. I asked her to take my hand. She did. I could feel some physical discomfort in her. I asked her to make herself more comfortable. She replied she is comfortable … more avoidance. I took the gram and ingested it and gestured for her to move the small plastic tray away. She did. I thanked her for noticing and understanding my gesture. Then she moved and made herself more comfortable! I asked her to acknowledge that she was now more comfortable. She kind of did … still avoidance. I asked her to take my hand again … her touch felt distant. I asked her to recall the shift she just made that made her more comfortable … and asked her to take my hand that way. She took it … her touch felt slightly more present, softer. I asked her to place my hand back where she found it. We repeated this numerous times … until I felt that we again arrived at a limit … that she was not available to come any closer. My eyes closed the whole time … I did not get around to opening my eyes and to seeing her. I asked her to leave the room.

At some point during this phase, I asked Iulia to try to reach out to Josh. I knew he knew I would be tripping and that he was aware of the context I was carrying into the experience. I did not wish to speak to Josh. I wanted for Iulia to be able to talk about what she was experiencing to someone who could relate to the situation. I scared her, I wanted someone to tend to her fear. She reached out, but it would take some time until he would respond.

Complete

After sitting quietly for a while I got up. I picked up a few cherries from the kitchen and went outside to sit on the steps that lead into the house. It was sunny. I was 5.5 grams in and I felt intensely focused and present. I remember the feeling that the light was very bright. I remember being curious about being curious about (<- not a typo ) the succulent cherries in my mouth, but I wasn’t. I was enamored by the trajectory of the pits as I tossed them into the grass … it was as if they moved in slow motion and I could easily follow their trajectory.

I felt complete. No mystical experience. No veil penetrated. No hallucinations. No monsters. Just me. Full, present, intense, radiant me. It was self-affirming. I did wonder though … was there more ahead? was I resisting? would I discover a blind spot if I went further? how many grams would it take for me to lose myself? how many more grams to astral visions?

Iulia came to sit by my side. The confrontation with Iulia was now complete. I had an embodied sense of the gap between us. A gap I’ve been experiencing for a couple of years. I could see there was no point in me trying to move forward as long as she responded with evasion and avoidance. I felt surrendered and empowered by the acceptance. I asked her how many more grams would she like to see me ingest? How many more grams until the mushrooms gave HER a more desirable outcome from me? She thinks I need therapy, that I have blind spots, that I am traumatized. The mushrooms didn’t heal, didn’t shed light on the blind spots and I don’t resonate with the trauma-framing, not when sober, nor when high. I was not dissolved by the mushrooms, I was crystallized, solidified. I asked her, in a direct, present, clear tone, if she would like me to take more … maybe more will get me to where she thinks I need to get? She replied “No.” I asked why? The only reply she had to offer was “you’ve had enough” … distant, evading, refusing to meet me in the moment. But that is OK. It is how we have been for a long time. It is how we are now. It is probably how we will continue to be.

She moved closer to me and embraced me.

Suddenly a thought landed sharply and clearly in my mind. I turned to her and said with some urgency: this is a unique moment, an opportunity, since you and I will not get past this point, please go, right now, and call someone, whoever you want, and have an honest and sincere conversation about what YOU are experiencing right now. RIGHT NOW! She started evading … this isn’t about me it’s about you … what about you … how about you talking to someone (5.5 grams and she is still pitching me therapy). I turned to face her … looked directly into her eyes. I begged her to stop evading me. We were both in tears. I repeated the proposition that was so alive in me … go speak to someone RIGHT NOW. Her last reply was “but what if I don’t want to?” … to which I replied, “then don’t! you don’t need to fight me.” She went in and spoke to a friend.

I felt complete. I was done. I did what I came here to do. I went back to my room, grabbed a pillow and laid down on the floor.

Lost

From this point on the experience changed and became more trippy. I do not recall hallucinations. I recall lying down on the floor … and getting up to go outside to pee. Many times. I lost track of time. I did not feel disoriented but I was not sure where I was. I aske Iulia many times: what time is is? how much mushrooms did I take? I knew the answers, but wanted to check myself.

During one of my pee excursions, Iulia called out to me – Josh came online and responded. I went to her room. The chat was open but an audio/video connection was not yet established. I couldn’t handle the technology and asked her to connect us. Josh was coming out of a shopping mall and his connection was unsteady – he was breaking up. I remember thinking: “I definitely don’t need a breaking up experience right now!” Iulia tried to fix it … she asked Josh “Are you on?” and I broke into uncontrollable laughter so hard I was barely able to say the words that were in my mind: “I don’t know about Josh but I AM ON!” and added, “maybe you could choose your words more carefully?”

Finally, a connection was established. Josh and I had a short interaction. Iulia moved away, clearly signaling that she did not want to partake in this conversation. I said this to Josh. I wanted him to witness the situation. To witness me and to witness her. I indicated to him that the way the conversation was happening, that I was forcing it on Iulia because she didn’t want it. I asked Josh to repeat to me what he heard me say and indicated that I will wish to talk to him after I come down from the trip to hear what he witnessed (we had a conversation the next day).

At one point I told Iulia I wanted to speak to her friend, to hear from her what Iulia told her. She called her and held up the phone to me. I was direct: “can you please share with me what Iulia told you?” She answered “we talk a lot, which conversation do you mean” … there it is again … evasion. We had a short interaction … I quickly realized it wasn’t going anywhere … I had no interest in playing games … I was being direct and sincere and wanted a response in kind … no luck … so I said thank you and goodbye.

During most of this phase, I felt mellow. But the time disassociation made me wonder if I was being manic. Sometimes, when I went to pee, I felt like I had just been out to pee … so it felt like an erratic back and forth movement. I asked Iulia if she felt I was being manic? She had to look up the word and told me that no, she didn’t think I was manic. I do not know how many such cycles I went through, I do know it went on for ~2 hours.

Iulia was present in many of these iterations, while I was lying on the ground. THAT made me feel a bit delusional. I was not sure she was really there and asked her many times: are you really here? I felt like I was in a movie coming in and out of scenes with Iulia – like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind:

I wasn’t sure when a scene started or when it ended … but the scenes felt distinct. Each time she was in a different position. Sitting next to me, standing next to me, sitting behind me, strumming her Ukelele (which sounded so out of tune – but whole in its own way) – I took this picture near the end – so I could confirm it was real:

I remember her hands … finally holding my hands softly. I remember thinking: “she figured out how to take my hand.” I remember talking, now feeling more vague and distant … no longer sharp and present. I was surrendered, I had said what I wanted to say. Because of the fuzziness at this point, I do recall saying to Iulia that I hope that I did say out loud everything I thought I said. I finally did get to look at her … it was a soft looking … not the penetrating looking I desired earlier. I saw her face age … her wrinkles deepening and spreading.

I remember a recurring feeling of being “alone on the ground” … it persisted even when Iulia was next to me holding my hand.

I remember feeling and expressing to Iulia a sense of deep tiredness. Not just from the current experience … but an accumulated life experience.

I remember that my perception of the carpet changed. It felt so bright and clean … and now it was fading into a darker color … it felt like it needed cleaning.

At one point our shared sober understanding and the gap between us began to re-appear. I began to feel tiredness and heaviness. Another round outside to pee. Walking back inside … this time not lying down. Standing, a bit confused. This is ending. I plugged my phone into the amplifier, sat in front of the speakers and turned up the volume, and played this song:

The song ended … silence remained. I opened the door to my room and found Iulia crouched in the door frame.

Posted in About, Expanding, inside, Myself | You are welcome to add your comment

Aphantasia?

n

This came to me via Bonnitta Roy:

When I shared this with Sunni she asked me if I feel I have this … and this was my answer:


I am not sure that “it” is really a thing. I do not trust the dichotomies of “it-ness” that mechanistic thinking likes to assume and impose.

I do resonate with some of the experiences associated with “it.” I rarely experience visual memory (or other expressions of felt experience), most of my “memories” feel like stories that have been told to me about myself.

“Guided Meditations” (setting aside that I think the title is an oxymoron) have rarely worked for me, visualizing just doesn’t seem to play out well for me. I wonder how many other people have been alienated by “guided meditations” making them feel inapt and disconnected because the so called “guides” are not well informed?

In my painting I have come rely on a process of writing because, once again, visualizing does not works for me.

I would be hard pressed to describe people I know, even people with whom I’ve lived for years … I can’t recall features visually … I can’t tell you something like eye-color (unless I intentionally memorize it, and I am not good at memorizing either).

I think I may experience less emotional attachment (than others!?) … and that could be related to not having images present in my mind.

I do not experience much “missing” … of people or places … and even when I do … I feel doubts about what it is that I miss.

I can imagine that “it” is not a fixed phenomenon (like disconnected wires or inactive areas in the brain) and I suspect that “it” is effected by conditions and circumstances.

I do appreciate the recognition that different people (in different contexts?) experience visualization differently.

I do appreciate the breaking down of assumptions that we are all similar … that a brain is a brain … or a mind is a mind …

I do appreciate when mainstream scientific thinking moves closer (albeit in small steps) to respecting complexity, refinement and subtlety of perception and cognition.

Posted in About, Intake, Myself, outside | You are welcome to add your comment

Yeshayahu Leibowitz: A Right to Land

n

Here is a rough translation because there are no subtitles in this short video (from its quality I place it in the 60’s or 70’s) an Israeli asks Leibowitz, an Israeli philosopher, a question:

I am a farmer who owns lands. What do I tell my Arab neighbor who tells me, in good spirit, that the land I am working was his 30 years ago? The same land that I now pay him to work was his.

This is the outline of the answer Leibowitz gives:

  1. There is no such thing as a right to land. No one has any right to land.
  2. As an example (to step outside of the Israeli/Palestinian controversy) he says that even no Swedish person has a right to Sweden.
  3. What makes Sweden Sweden is the millions of people who have lived there together for generations and experience an EMOTIONAL belonging to the land.
  4. This kind of link is stronger than any legal argument because you can argue and bargain about legality but you cannot argue or bargain with what is in a person feels.
  5. Therefore, he says to the person who asked the question, the problem is not between you and your neighbor. The problem is that your fate (he uses the word fate!) was to belong to the Jewish people and his to belong to the Palestinian people … and to find yourselves belonging to the same physical land.
  6. And the two of you are stuck in this horrible situation where you have no choice but to inhabit your lived experience of belonging.
  7. This begs the question: so what now?
  8. We have to choose between one of two options AND there IS NOT a 3rd option.
  9. Option: a war to the death (in which case the world will support the Arab position).
  10. The other option: dividing the country between the two peoples who inhabit it.
  11. And I know, as does everyone, that dividing a country is not reasonable and not just and that it will be very difficult and come at great cost
  12. … but you cannot change history.
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Choking on my past?

n

I wrote this partial post back in mid-January 2021. When I started it I had a feeling I may never finish it, and indeed I haven’t. Shortly after aborting it I did write a letter to my family on the same subject. But this post stayed with me. I have no desire to resume writing it. I do not even wish to review what is written before publishing. I do have a desire to make it public. I don’t know why. But here it is. Unedited. Incomplete.


Shortly after posting my last practice review my breath collapsed. It seemed inevitable to wonder if somehow COVID had reached me. I can’t really tell, but I suspect that is not the case. The focused blockage that was manifesting in my nostrils seemed to “get loose” and spread down into my chest. It became a cough and a tension in the diaphragm … the place where my asthma lived (lives?). This went on for ~10 days after which I felt a subtle shift for the better. I arrived at a comfortable ujjayi breath of 10.2.15.5. Now is the time of day I am usually on the mat, and I am not there because the last 3 days have seen another wave of deterioration.

During this time I’ve been re-listening to the podcast series Fear & Loathing in the New Jerusalem. Daryl Cooper has been like a close friend whispering harsh truths in my ear. He tells a story of my history. I was told this story in school when I was a teenager. But I was told an incomplete and broken version of the story. Daryl doesn’t hide or cover anything up.

If you wish to better understand what I am talking about I recommend listening to the podcast. There is a good chance it is one of the best history-story-telling podcasts you will hear. Any attempt I make to describe that story will fall far short of Daryl’s offering. The chronological “newsflash” version is:

  • 2000 years ago Jews living in modern-day Israel piss off the Romans and the Romans come down hard on them and send them into the wind … a 2000 year diaspora.
  • Basic tribalism keeps the Jews isolated in most of the societies they inhabit. Tribalism seems to be a fundamental source of “us and them.” Tribalism is eventually refined into racism.
  • Jews learn to live under threat for thousands of years.
  • ~150 year ago nationalism comes into fashion and the Jews join the party.
  • ~120 years ago waves of Jewish migration (motivated by different social forces) start to arrive in Palestine fueled by a wish to make it into Israel.
  • ~100 years ago the era of the two world wars begins and all the flux creates new potentials and opportunities.
  • ~80 years ago the 2nd world war arrives and lands hard on the Jews.
  • The Jews embrace the de-facto normalized strategies of “vengeance and attrocities” and turn them against everyone in Palestine who is not Jewish. The British are driven out of Palestine and the Arabs are driven into the ground (they have nowhere to go).
  • ~70 years ago, on foundations of violent attrocities (receiving and giving), the state of Israel is corrupted into existence.
  • ~50 years ago, just before one of its historical “survival wars” I was born.

Most of the modern world was built on violence and exploitation. Yet it feels to me like my, relatively recent, history is spiked with an excessive share of it.

Exploiting the Holocaust

My mother’s parents were German and Polish. They left Germany in the 30’s, they escaped the 2nd world war. My father’s parents were Romanian. They lived in a city ~80km from where I currently live. They did not escape and were Holocaust survivors.

The Holocaust is celebrated in Israel. It is fundamental to maintaining the national Israeli identity. If I am not mistaken both of my sisters went, as teenagers on school-organized “Concentration camp tours.” I was spared this ordeal because flights and tourism were not as developed. In the decades since these tours became more affordable and more common and became a regular part of many (if not most) young Israeli’s. We must never forget and we must never let it happen again. That comes in very handy when real military service is mandatory and you will be asked to subjugate other human beings. Young Israeli’s are sent to war as soldiers and when they die they come back as fallen (mostly) sons and (maybe a few) daughters!

The Holocaust was celebrated in my family. My paternal grandfather was once ceremoniously interviewed on video. I wasn’t there. I hated that this was happening. I had a feeling that what was taking place was deeply disrespectful. That this horrifying personal and collective history was being used not honored. Now, in retrospect I know that is was being used to set the stage for more horrifying history. When I left Israel to move to Romania (back to the place from which my grandparents were taken to German concentration camps) my fathers reminded me that “Everyone hates the Jews!”

Sheep & Men

I am a foreigner in Romania. I am also a stranger. I bury perfectly good firewood to make raised beds! I build strange stoves with barrels! I refuse to cultivate my land by plowing it with tractors and I feel compelled to protect it from overgrazing by sheep.

That last one almost got me in trouble. My neighbors, on one side, rent their land for industrial farming (and wonder why I don’t do the same … easy money!). My neighbors on the other side rent their land to a herd-owner for grazing his sheep. There is a lot of pressure on grazing land in Romania. I have tried allowing some controlled grazing on my land, but it didn’t work. I end up having to police my own land and policing leads to arguments … so I just don’t allow grazing on my land.

One time, I found the sheep grazing all over the raised beds. I ran out and demanded (asking was worn out by then) of the human being guiding them to get them off my land. He (naturally?) got angry at me and told me I should build a fence. I decided to hold my ground and to allow an aggressive energy to pass through me. There was anger in me but I was not angry. He also decided to hold something .. but not the ground … my shirt … in his fist against my chest.

This is the closest I’ve ever been to violence. I felt the anger swelling in me. I wanted to subdue him, to hurt him. Fortunately, I have neither the skill nor the inclination for it. But I remember the anger. The vibration was alive in me for a couple of days.

I realized that there was no good outcome for me. I am the foreigner and the stranger. I don’t drink in the bar (with the policemen?). I felt, in my bones, the fragile thin-ness of the veil society. I can imagine that under the right conditions … a bit more land stress, a bit more economic hardship … that the social threads could easily tear and I could become “The Jew.”

I am remembering now, applying years ago, to get my Romanian drivers license (administered by the police in Romania). The request was based on my Israeli drivers license and so there were some “unique bureaucracy” involved (my recurring “luck”) and so the commanding officer was involved. He made some comment about “the Jews taking over again” … its right there!

I am Jewish to the extent that I was born to a female human being who other male human being deemed to be Jewish. I do not practice Judaism and I most certainly do not congregate with other Jews. I am not afraid. I am however aware of the potential for other (probably male) human beings to decide that, for their reasons, I am Jewish.

Violence

I am very sensitive to violence. To this day if I am around two adults who are angry at each other (having nothing to do with me) there is a child inside me that wants to hide.

Exploitation is, in my mind, a subtle and insidious form of violence. I am sensitive to being exploited. In school, I rarely collaborated with other kids (I can only think of one time where I willingly collaborated, all the other times were probably forced upon me). I was usually thorough and rigorous and hated the feeling of being used … taken advantage of … by others.

It is also challenging for me to receive. I need to feel that the giving is clean, that there are no strings attached. My grandmother, the Holocaust survivor, took care of me a lot when I was young. We were each other’s “favorites” … she my favorite grandmother and me her favorite (and for the record: first) grandson. But when I became a teenager I started sensing that her giving was not clean … that there was an accounting going … I was expected to be ” a good grandson” … and I distanced myself from her.

Expectations … I also experience expectations as violence. I am allergic to “expectations of me” … both when they are inflicted upon me by others and when I inflict them on myself.

Violence is a war that Israel, as a nation, has lost. I felt it when I was still there. I felt it, even more, when I withdrew from it (perspective). I gave up so much (how much is becoming apparent as the years go by) to withdraw myself from the violence. When the shepherd grabbed me by the shirt … I was so angry because he brought violence back to my doorstep … he reminded me that violence is present in him … and in me.

Weeds & Rigor

I don’t garden because of weeds … and allergy. The default story of weeds that lived inside me evoked violence … I was called to fight the weeds. I don’t want to fight the weeds.

My Holocaust surviving grandparents had bad teeth … supposedly caused by nutritional deficiencies. My grandmother had a deep fear of dogs … from guard dogs in concentration camps. To what extent such ripples persist across generations?

I have, for as long as I can remember myself, been and felt like a rigorous individual …. thorough … thinking things through … trying to make good choices … aspiring for better. This does not feel like a choice I make … I don’t feel like I can choose not to be this way.

Over recent years I have become more conscious of my two younger sisters as human beings that are getting older alongside me. We are very different beings. But it has been interesting for me to recognize that rigor is a shared trait. We have very different priorities but whatever they are we approach them with rigor. Recognizing this as a shared trait has made me wonder about it? I believe this rigor comes from my father and his parents.

Rigor can be a tough quality to live with. It is demanding both of myself and of others around me. It can become escalating … leading to too much intensity. It can inhibit movement (for better or for worse). It can be demanding on others. It can feel and be alienating. It can make me seem uncompromising and it can make me seem arrogant … not a very attractive social being!

Observing my sisters it is interesting to see how rigor itself, though common, has morphed in different directions through us. The older of my two sisters is mind-rigorous. The young is heart-rigorous. I think I am somewhere in between.

But I believe that rigor is a critical piece in … life … in facing the complexity of the world … in recognizing past failures and in avoiding repeating them.

Social Void

Violence doesn’t work for me. This is NOT an ideological statement. It is a biological one. I don’t feel good around violence. I shrivel and shrink … I can’t breathe … I can’t think clearly.

Placing myself in historical perspective through Daryl’s storytelling has jarred me. I felt shaken and moved to tears at the end of every episode. So much violence has gone into … me! So much violence against “my people” and so much violence perpertrated by “my people” … so much violence required for me to be.

Distancing myself from violence was and is, in its own right, a sensible move. Yet doing so has left a dark void. I feel physically intact. I feel spiritually intact. But there is NO social fabric.

Posted in About, inside, Israel, Myself | You are welcome to add your comment

Seeing Samkhya

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Today I launched a website about my exploration of the Samkhya Karika text. It is one of the ancient Indian philosophies and the metaphysical ground upon which Yoga rests. The text has 73 verses that outline 25 principles that constitute Samkhya. I am creating a generative summary for each verse along with a painting.

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