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Zelda's Inferno exercise, August 26: no where to go that is not me

Zelda's Inferno exercise: from what was intended to be a guided group meditation. I went off in a different direction though, since "out of body" meditation is 180 degrees away from the work I'm doing: instead, started with here-and-now:

three pillar candles burn in the center of the table
flames dance in the breeze of the here-and-now
from the ceiling fans
from the A/C unit in the window
from the breath of the people around the table
from the small echos of far distant hurricanes
the breeze that permeates the world

trance words are spoken but I watch the flames
they dance both together and apart
the same breeze moves them
they each dance differently
and each blows its own small breeze to the others
and to the people who sit around the table

does anyone see? does anyone feel that breeze?
once against I am befuddled by things sensible people take for granted

Lecture to reading poets

Convergence of some things that have been on my mind regarding poetry, spirituality, and the Transcendentalists:

Lecture to reading poets:

Ok, I want to talk to the poets for a minute.
The rest of you, feel free to go outside and smoke, get a cup of coffee,

Ok, poets? Come on up here. We gotta talk.

Look, guys, I've been reading some Emerson and Whitman lately. You heard these guys talk about poetry?

Ralph Waldo talks about how the birth of a poet is the principal event in history,

"I love being religious"

Another Starwood moment I want to make sure to note, in fact that might make the opening of the book:

Opening ritual. Maybe 100-150 people, elders and children, men and women, some in various interesting regalia, some men in kilts or sarongs, some in simple t-shirts and shorts. We've invoked the directions, honored the ancestors and the gods and the spirits of the land, and now, laughing, we join hands in the spiral dance, running and leaping together and swinging each other, sort of a giant game of "crack the whip", until we all fall into a glom at the center.

In front of me is Lady Sue, who I met at my first festival, an older feisty redhead. She looks back over her shoulder at me and, smiling, says "I love being religious!"

Obviously this is a different sort of "religious" than the Catholicism I was raised in...and that's what I want to explore in the book.

This is your brain on Starwood

Ah, Starwood. How to explain? Maybe the last night's of the biggest bonfire events in the country. Think a pile of flaming logs the size of a small house (the House of Fire! I must use that next year..."Welcome to the house of fire") with hundreds of people dancing around it and drumming, all night.

The moon is almost full, and hangs above the fire. I am wearing a lovely Chinese silk jacket that I just got, looking damn good if I do say so myself...this festival I have been manifesting the archetype of the Lover a fair bit (and more on that later), but tonight I pulling down a blend of the King, the Magician, and the Holy Goof, dancing around, coming up to people and telling them "Now don't tell anybody, but the beautiful." I am the King bestowing blessings; I am the Magician, teaching my secret knowledge. I have a hope that for someone, this will be the moment, the exact thing they needed to hear. But mostly I am the Holy Goof, for the whole thing is ridiculous, I am for some reason I cannot explain talking in a Tom Waits gravel voice.

I am dancing all night, the sun comes up and there are fewer but still many of us, some dozing off on the sides or wrapped in embracing couples or trios. A bunch of people in ridiculous superhero costumes come changing in and bring an infusion of energy - how can you not be joyful at the sight of a tall thin man in an American flag jockstrap waving an inflatable toy sword? A pretty girl - an old Starwood fling with whom I have, perhaps, reconnected - gets me to hula-hoop for a while.

Some of our fearless leaders, America's top alternative spirituality
leaders, arrive and start a bocche ball game in and among and dancers. I
overhear Ian Corrigan, Archdruid Emeritus of the neo-Druid group Ar
nDraiocht Fein
, and Reverend Ivan Stang of the href="">ha-ha-only-serious Church of the Subgenius, talking about how they have no idea how to score such a game.

Jugs of "Discordian Juice" - some fruit juice and alcohol mix - get passed around. Rev. Stang produces a jug of "Subgenius Antidote" for the Discordian Juice (it seems to have the same active ingredient) and a hot blond girl grabs me by the hair and makes me drink some. I do not complain.

Around 8am I am exhausted, feel my work is done, start to gather my things. In one of those moments that means nothing to anyone but those involved, I find that my karma is still tangled with that of the only ex-lover with whom I am not on good terms, she is coincidentally standing right where I left my bags, talking to someone seated nearby. We do not speak (the last time I did that, she spat on the ground - yes, the energy remains that toxic) as I pick up my bags and start up the hill, only to be called back to the fire by perhaps my favorite magickal ritual.

A few years ago our good friend Brian Jefferson realized that the chorus from an old soul song makes an excellent chant. And now a bunch of sleep-deprived and intoxicated freaks and seekers dance around and embrace and sing to each other, "I want to thank you / for lettin' me / be myself, again..."

And this is your brain on Starwood.

saved by hotel desk clerks; guardian-gardeners of steel

Despite the high rhetoric of world-redeemers, saving the world is a one-person-at-a-time deal. And I remember a Zen poem: "Whenever the burden of saving all sentient beings becomes too great, I vow with all beings the breath in the grace of the morning star, and remember that they are saving me."

I was saved by two night clerks a a hotel in Jersey City. I had just returned from Japan and just had my girlfriend break up with me, was wondering if it had been worth it to come back, if there was anything on this continent worth staying for. That Saturday I went up to NYC for the annual black belt clinic; called around to find a hotel room, found one at place I'd stayed before, the Radison near the Journal Square PATH train stop. Caught the train after the welcome party, walked over to the hotel.

Two young ladies behind the counter, black girls, kind of rolly-polly (of course, for the first week or two after I got back from Japan, everybody in this country looked rolly-polly). And they were beautiful Americans, cheerfully giving directions to one guy on how to find a good local bar, joking with me about my name and "Swiss as in cheese or as in bank accounts?" In just a few minutes they redeemed America for me, made it worth coming back.

my Starwood workshops

As previously mentioned, I'll be presenting workshops at the Starwood Festival again this year. Now, I know which ones:

Sparking a Creative Inferno

Zelda's Inferno is a weekly Baltimore poetry workshop that has been meeting and writing since 2000. We have only one rule: if you have words on the page at the end of the exercise, you win! Longtime Zelda's coordinator Tom Swiss will lead participants through writing exercises that might show you new ways to spark the fires of creativity. For poets, bards, and writers of all types and abilities.

Self-defense as a Spiritual Practice

You are a manifestation of the divine, a child of the God and Goddess. That makes you a being worth defending; yet our culture's confused attitudes about violence, plus the self-esteem issues faced by many people in the Pagan community, often obscure the fact that self-defense is also defense of the divine principle within all of us. In this workshop we will try to cut through the fog and discuss attitudes and skills to preserve not just your body but your divine nature. Targeted for those without previous martial arts or self-defense training; but experienced students are also welcome. We will practice verbal and non-verbal communication skills for dealing with conflict, and a few simple self-defense techniques.

server migration, Buddhist precepts, rare books

Zelda's at the new space at St John's's a nice space but sort of an inconvenient place, not much around and a farther drive for me. I've walked up to Xandos, near JHU, for a veggie wrap and a coffee.

Yesterday, worked all day on server migration for the day job. Loads of fun shepherding that. In a well-designed system it would be trivial, but this is such a patchwork, a mishmash, that it had to be babied through. It took pretty much all day, with a few bumps and some things to still work out this morning - and the boss said it went a lot more smoothly than some past migrations. Yeesh. So now that we're moved I'll see what I can do about getting better practices in place.

I've been considering the idea that the Buddhist precepts basically boil down to "Don't make trouble" and "Don't settle for cheap thrills". Add in "Tip your bartenders, servers, and musicians" (i.e., the practice of charity) and it becomes also a good guideline for a night out on the town. (Which is, perhaps, indicative of some sort of overarching metaphor....)

Friday, went down to Ellicott City for lunch and ended up over at Gramp's Attic Books, a used and rare bookstore where I often find interesting things. I found a collection of some of Emerson's journals, a cheap copy of On the Road, a complete Whitman collection as well as a biography of him, and an interesting-looking scholarly book about the image of India in German Romanticism. Great research stuff.

toasting the Solstice; the metaphor of fire for love; stretching the writing muscles

And so summer either begins or hits its midpoint, depending on how you count, here on the Solstice. I've come down to the Judge's Bench to toast it.

Last night I got to go over and catch up with Mike, hadn't seen him since I got back from Japan. Joe came over too, so I was able to hand out their omiyage.

I've been mucking around more on the past few days, digging back through census records, finding out a little bit about the great-grandparents and even some more great-greats and great-great-greats. Might have found some distant cousins through the site, over on the Sprole side.

So I'm contemplating the metaphor of fire for love, and thinking of how they leave behind a mess of soot and ashes and smoke that has to be cleaned up. Or that will eventually soak into the soil and nurture it, but meanwhile is a mess.

But it's interesting to consider the perspective of emptiness on the end of a relationship, as we would apply it to death...we might understand that a "self" is a dependent arising, not a real thing. Can we see the same in a romantic (or other sort of of interpersonal) relationship, that it is an aggregate of things that come together and come apart? Just as when a flame is blown out, yet all the molecules of air and fuel remain, so she and I remain, and so does the space between us.

Of course, contemplating that the flame has not really "gone away" anywhere is not useful when the fire goes out and you're freezing. Emptiness is also empty.

So, let's stretch the writing muscles with a little poetic exercise. Supported free-write on a random overheard phrase: "light me on fire"

what is the Free Spirit Gathering?

Got back from FSG yesterday...pretty mellow festival this year, even though there was a higher level of attendance.

help him now; packing it in

Probably final entry in Japan.

Zen center was great. So yesterday evening, Lester (older guy from NY, now living in Japan), his daughter Katee ("double", grew up in Japan going to gaijin schools), and her husband Max (from Manchester, early 30s maybe) arrived. We all went down to the main zendo, in walking mediation down the streets for a few minutes. The roshi came out for this, which was cool (he apparently just got back into town).

Lester was having some problem with the sitting - turns out he has some health issues. At first I was getting a little annoyed, then the compassion kicked in a bit. I remembered a verse from Ikkyu: "Don't wait for the man standing next to you to cut off his own arm/ help him now"


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