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 two, 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 a physical abiding in Oneness. Pure BEing, essence, kenshō. Transcendence’s essence, there, at the very beginning.
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 were raised in the same world I was. Being malleable, changing personality traits depending upon the company and leaving ego at the crossroads, moving on as the souls left behind sift into memory like pages in a book fluttering faster and faster, ripped out by the gale-force winds of changing circumstances, environs, and people. Life is the same, everywhere. As are people.
Four years old in Novato and Hamilton AFB, California dreamin’. Repeated night visions of what seemed to me to be a ghost in the kitchen. The “dream” of dolls, chasing me with needles. My sister’s Raggedy Ann and Andy and Dressy Bessy dolls stand out. The cover-memory trembles at the edges, fleeting as gaping shadows ripping at the veneer of sanity.
Eight years old on the island of Crete, Greece and my first experiences of sleep paralysis. The weight on the chest, the sudden fear, the rhythmic-but-steady deadening of the limbs, the sensing of a presence nearby, the night-terror familiar to so many throughout the Ages. No idea what it was, but learning techniques to keep the paralysis at bay, beginning a lifetime’s journey into insomnia and alternate experiences of reality, marked as strange through no fault of my own, my night-time and inner journeys seemingly so different from all around me.
Twelve years old, lying in my bed at night, feeling an intense and almost undescribeable feeling of sacrifice, of being adrift in a sea of potentiality, feeling subsumed, permeated with infinite love, infinite giving, infinite possibility. Kenshō again. Blessed unity, Oneness, a realization of essential unity with the All.
Fifteen years old, finding Carlos Casteneda’s “The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge” sitting in the waiting room of an OBGYN at Fairchild AFB where I was a Red Cross Volunteen, looking across at Jenny Grey who was smiling and couldn’t stop staring at my big forehead. I didn’t wear afros long, after that. But the shock of the truths re-discovered then resonate still today.
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 life-altering had happened. Death became personal. As did grief.
Nineteen years old and in the Army, in the Zone and 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. It was as if I’d flexed a mental muscle, entered a hidden region of potentiality, accessed what I needed and then flexed that muscle again to return to normality, drained but excited beyond belief.
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. The essence of him remaining, visions of him sitting, nodding, lost in contemplation.
Twenty-two years old and astral-projecting through sleep paralysis 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. Forming a conscious vet’s perspective by flirting with death and dissolution, seeking solace in the arms of others, the spirits of plants manifest through drugs and alcohol, not needing validation, trying to lose myself, self-hate 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 encompass all that has come before and from which point I am manifesting all that is within me fully, in sublime celebration of the eternal spirit and infinite possibility. Because I am a writer, 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 vascillation. Shambhala’s warrior-ship of compassion is the same, as is Gurdjieff’s Fourth Way, as are all true paths taught by all true teachers in the tradition of the Buddha and the Christ. 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. As within, so without. 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, a matter of foremost importance to the cult of I. 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 manifestion of the soul’s urges, which are human and world-centered, yet Divinely otherworldly in aspect and degree.
Forty years old, and my Grandma Dororthy left this plane of existence. The graveyard in Paducah, 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 Dorothy 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.
Forty-three years old in a DC state of mind, working with my sister and spending my off-time at the Shambhala meditation center, hanging out with Capoeira students, walking the streets of the nation’s capital, unafraid. At 6’4, then 270 pounds, I seemed to be the one people were afraid of. Learning Lojong and Tonglen, implementing the meditations diligently, resulting in a transformatory heart opening. The result is multiple bouts of unexpected tears while walking to work, repeated instances of spontaneous compassion and the resultant bliss gated by grief, wondering if my emotions would ever stabilize again.
Fourty-four and a transmission of grace during a vision from a Master on the astral plane. The Great Gathering and another experience of kenshō, this time recognized and understood for what it was. Exhorted toward further gains, fits and starts of growth and realization culminating in a steady-state resonation in the throes of personal transformation; coming to grips with what my life path has been all about and what Enlightenment really and truly means in the modern world. Also coming to the realization that all of the intellectualism I had cultivated for so many years in the area of spiritual development was for naught. I knew the truth when I was two years old.
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 much of life 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 – more and more these days – and the thought of those moments, events, snapshots of Life that led directly to this instant juxapose in meaning, providing an underlying and resonant vibration of Purpose to the clarity of the Now. They are accessible if I need them, but I rarely do anymore. The aftermath of kenshō is qualitatively different from what comes before and the acceptance and re-training of ego is a gradual process within which many pitfalls lurk. Direct experience assures progress as certain knowledge dispels ignorance and continued inner-work clarifies discernment and logos resonation within both the physical and ethereal realms.
My life experience is a composite of all of our experiences. There is nothing I have been through that you cannot go through and there is much I have been through that you have also. We are One within this bio-energetic reality and that means our experience in this lifetime along with all others binds us experientially as spiritual and material family. The family of humanity and the greater family of pure consciousness.
Pain and heartache are certain, while desire remains. 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 lullabys of yearning and transcendence, soothing our souls as we rush headlong into the Abyss.
The Enlightenment Series
3. The End of Forever