Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Art is What Makes Life Worth Living

“Art is what makes life worth living,” my kung fu master said, looking straight into my eyes. He knew my story. As I approached the end of my thirties I felt a real need to test myself and pursued full contact competitive fighting. I worked with an MMA coach and learned the sport which incorporated wrestling, Brazilian jujitsu, muay thai and boxing but things didn’t quite work out and in the end, I started hating it. I had to quit. You can’t hate something you love. You just can’t let that happen to yourself.

So it hit me hard when I decided to go back to kung fu (the art of my youth) with the less lofty goal of finding the love and fun in it again, only to hear my kung fu master tell me that I focused too much on competition and not enough on the art.
“Fighting destroys us,” he said, “and you know this from your writing and painting--Art is what makes life worth living.”

Earlier in the week, an online friend of mine shared with me a psychology article that broke down the process of creativity to help artists deal with the extreme emotions they go through. Just a few days before, a friend told me about an artist who committed suicide. “Art is madness,” he said. I never saw it that way.

I snuffed the clinical article that tried to generalize the complex emotions of human beings and I questioned my friend’s assertion that art is madness, something that the article also implied. I think about all the times in my life that art has saved me from madness. Aren’t we all a little mad, and if we didn’t have a creative outlet, what would happen to us?

Art isn’t madness. Art is what makes life worth living. Can you imagine a world without music, dance, crafts, abstraction, movies, festivals, imagination or art? How would we cope? How would we learn? What would motivate or inspire us? How would we court our lovers? How would we teach our children? What would comfort us when we feel lonely?



I once had a friend tell me that she resolved to only read books that would help her with her work. I said, “But that’s no fun.” The greatest lessons I ever learned, I learned from reading fiction or stories. All great leaders, teachers, scientists and more saw whatever they did, not as a work but as art. The greatest movers and thinkers in history were also well rounded artists. It seems to me that denying creativity is denying the very process in which our brain works. We disconnect from everything that makes us who we are.

Art isn’t madness. Art is meditation.  We take the emotions and chaos and turn it into beauty and form. We make sense of the things that we can’t make sense of any other way and this takes discipline. A musician doesn’t just know how to play an instrument. He/she has to practice many hours in peace. One has to get lost in ones discipline in order to express oneself in a way that creates beauty. Without this discipline, everything would be madness.

I think art is often confused with ambition. Ambition is what ruins artists, this desire to be the best in a subjective world. Something happens when marketing a book or becoming world champion becomes more important than the joy and tranquility of just doing what we have always loved doing. And at some point, we artists go through a little crisis. We realize that we’ve lost sight of what it was all about and we have to find ourselves again. At some point, it becomes all about making it to the top and we lose a bit of our souls. Art isn’t madness, ambition is. The thing I learned from competitive fighting is you can’t be successful unless you’re disciplined in your art and you’re passionate about what you do. That’s what keeps us doing what we do, regardless of the trials and tribulations, the rejections and the failures. If it’s just work, we wouldn’t do it. We do it because we love it, because it’s what makes life worth living. Success is just a side effect, not of hard work but of playing hard out of passion and joy for what we do.



A few years ago, I knew a very talented musician who played a killer upright bass. He was hired to play bass for a rock band and he invited me to some kind of retreat in upstate New York for the weekend. I had no idea what it was about but I decided to go. He explained to me that this group of musicians were past their prime. They eventually got jobs as lawyers or what not, but they realized that they still loved playing for their friends. In fact, they decided that it wasn’t worth playing for anyone else. So they pitched in and bought a house in the woods together and that’s where we were headed. There were a bunch of people hanging out in the house and we all brought sleeping bags. We just chilled out during the day and someone bought some pottery to paint. It was drizzling outside but I couldn’t stand to be cooped up so I played volleyball in the rain with my friend.

I made many new friends, all friendly and outgoing people. There was a woman who was exceptionally hypnotic. I remember a butterfly landing right on her finger, inviting her friend to take pictures. She had a fire to her that was instantly noticeable. People referred to her as "the voice" and I didn’t understand why until much later. She explained the life they used to live, touring from town to town playing rock and roll. She said that they were loved everywhere they went but it was a tougher crowd in the big cities where good ole’ rock and roll was overshadowed by other types of music. We asked if it was too much, being on the road all the time. She said that she was built for it but eventually, other members of the band settled down. I thought she looked very young. An acting coach once told me that singers and actors always look young, even though they drink and smoke and party all night. It’s because they breathe so deep.

That night, I found out why I was really there. One of the band members brewed some mushroom tea. We drank and had some barbecue from the large fire pit and everyone ushered me into the big red barn outside. They turned the barn into a stage and they played for their biggest fans, their friends. They were good, real good and the woman had a unique voice, a mix of Janis Joplin and Axl Rose. It was good ole rock and roll and it made me move and scream and whoop. Why had I never heard of them? It takes a lot to be the best in the world,and sometimes you have to be willing to deal with a lot of politics, but there’s talent everywhere. Some people just decide that they’d rather just play for their friends.




A nurse once wrote an article about people’s dying words in a hospital. The top regret she heard from men was that they wished they never worked too much. In the end of the life, what really matters, how hard you worked or how well you played for your friends and family?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

PERSPECTIVE: Life, The Universe and Everything


On New year’s day, we went to the Griffith Park Observatory, a great way to put the new year and the universe as we know it into perspective. I remember when they closed it down for five years of renovations after being open since 1935. Supposedly, Griffith J. Griffith saw the work they were doing with the giant telescopes and thought, “If all mankind could look through that telescope, it would change the world.” He started a fund that opened the observatory to the public for free.

During the renovations, they dug underneath the building and added a lower floor. On the walls is a giant picture of a small slice of the universe, taken from the observatory’s super telescope. It only covers the amount that your finger would cover if you held it up a foot in front of your eyes.

To help illustrate this, here is a picture of Einstein doing it.



Here is a picture of the sky map from the balcony. It consists of about a million galaxies, hundreds of thousands of stars and about a thousand quasars. Imagine how many fingers it would take to cover what we see with our eyes from earth and how many more galaxies, stars and quasars that would cover. 
Sorry, my camera is crappy



Here is one a little closer up.



            Isn’t it funny how realizing how terribly insignificant we are in relation to the universe can make us better people? It must be true. The place was packed on New Year ’s Day. They even had to close the streets off for a while. Finding a new year’s resolution seems comical when you know that the lifetime of man is barely a millisecond compared to the life of our galaxy.



How does realizing how terribly insignificant we are change the world?

For fifteen hundred years, western man believed that all heavenly objects revolved around the earth, a pretty egotistical perspective. But could they help it? It’s not like we could take our eyes and throw it up into space to use a different perspective. There is also something fairly comforting about being the center of the universe, but is it really? Copernicus was shunned for asserting that the earth actually revolved around the sun and Galileo was almost killed in the inquisition for daring to agree with him hundreds of years later, and this was after he invented the telescope. This begs the question, why were people so threatened when someone questioned their beliefs, even to the point of torturing those who disagreed with a scientific theory?

When it became common knowledge that the earth actually revolved around the sun, we became a little less significant, no longer the center of the whole universe, and when we learned that we are just on a small planet in one galaxy among billions of other galaxies full of their own suns and planets expanding through space matter, we became even less significant.

Since we don’t have the technology to travel through these many galaxies, all we know about space is mostly through mathematics and with all the new computer devices we have for calculations, we are challenging long standing theories more and more, but in the end one has to ask oneself, what do we really know?


While the ancient Greeks debated about the earth and the sun the Vedic preists of India recorded these words:

“None can know from where creation has arisen, and whether he has or has not produced it. He who surveys it in the highest heavens, He alone knows-or perhaps does not know." (Rig Veda 10. 129)

The Puranic Hindus seem to have had more perspective than the Greeks. This is taken from Wikipedia but I ordered myself a copy of the Padma Purana so I can site this for myself one day:
The puranic view asserts that the universe is created, destroyed, and re-created in an eternally repetitive series of cycles. In Hindu cosmology, a universe endures for about 4,320,000,000 years (one day of Brahma, the creator or kalpa) and is then destroyed by fire or water elements. At this point, Brahma rests for one night, just as long as the day. This process, named pralaya (literally especial dissolution in Sanskrit, commonly translated as Cataclysm), repeats for 100 Brahma years (311 Trillion, 40 Billion Human Years) that represents Brahma's lifespan. Brahma is regarded as a manifestation of Brahman as the creator.
Only some Puranas describe a universe that is cyclical or oscillating and infinite in time. The universe is described as a cosmic egg that cycles between expansion and total collapse. It expanded from a concentrated form — a point called a Bindu. The universe, as a living entity, is bound to the perpetual cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.
The Hindus were saying that time is an illusion, thousands of years before Einstein’s theory of relativity:
Space and time are considered to be maya (illusion). What looks like 100 years in the cosmos of Brahma could be thousands of years in other worlds, millions of years in some other worlds and 311 trillion and 40 billion years for our solar system and earth.

If the ancient Indians believed we were so insignificant that even this age of man is nothing more than a microscopic speck of ages within ages of universes that will be destroyed and renewed, expanded and contracted, how does this help us with our own suffering?

Perhaps it helped that they believed in many universes and in atoms that split off and passed within and through us. They mention parallel universes and different probabilities where you may be a queen in one life and a beggar in another. One of the layers of the universes is called “false ego.”

There is something about realizing that we are not the center of the universe but that we are a part of it. We are all made of star dust. The same laws that govern the cosmos govern us but the most important thing is to know that we could be wrong at any moment. My life has been a search for truth and nothing satisfies me more than having my whole perception shattered. Only then do I feel like I’m learning something. It’s very different from others who get angry when they realize that everything they believed turned out to be false. I worship those who prove me wrong, but others would have them burned at the stake.

I guess, that’s false ego, the idea that everything you know is correct. Of course, not everyone in ancient Greece was ruled by their need to be the center of the universe.
A friend of Greek philosopher, Socrates asked the oracle of Delphi, "Is anyone wiser than Socrates?" The answer was: "No human is wiser."

Socrates went around looking for someone wiser than he. How could he be the wisest man when he knew that he knew nothing? All he came across were a bunch of intellects who thought they knew everything. He came to the conclusion that he must be wiser than they because he, at least, knew that he knew nothing.



How the ancient Hindus knew so much about modern cosmology is beyond me but they also had this belief that ego is the great enemy of knowledge. Although they had ideas about how their universe was created, they still admitted that they could be wrong. In their spiritual practice or yoga, they made it a point to destroy all self perception that they were the center of the universe so they could see things as they truly were. Poetry was considered the highest way of communicating. Unlike today’s scientists, they used Gods and archetypes, symbols and metaphors but that is the great gift of the human mind. We can think in the abstract and use symbols to portray and communicate that which is too big for the ego to grasp.

Even Buddha wasn’t known to have found “enlightenment” until he finally gave up on finding enlightenment.

He also said, 
“In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.” 
Imagine how much less hate and war there would be in the world if we all understood this illusion.

As insignificant as I am, there is something life affirming about knowing that I’m not the center of everything. Maybe I’m not right about the petty little arguments of life. Maybe I can lighten up a bit, forgive people more, keep seeing the universe through the eyes of a child. Maybe I can stop acting old and jaded, like someone who has seen it all. Maybe I haven’t seen it all. Maybe I should take up a new subject, dance in the rain more and never stop searching for a truth I will never find because I always know that I know nothing. In other words, I should never stop living life to its fullest. 


And maybe I should keep writing poetry and start liking math more and just appreciate how these arts can take me outside of myself and help me transcend time and space. And with all that, all I have left to say is Happy New Year!

I leave you with a quote from the wise existential poet, EE Cumings:
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

Monday, December 22, 2014

My Shamanic Journey Log (Spirit Animals) P.S. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

It's the Winter Solstice, a time to look back on our lives and set our intentions for the future. It's also a new moon, another great time to sent intentions. I really debated whether or not to post this log publicly because its VERY personal. I'm sure there are things here that only I will understand but I thought, what the heck. I've always had a deep reverence and love for the nature and Shamanism has always given me a spiritual connection to this part of me. The following are some notes I took based on some recent shamanic journeys I had. The first one goes back, almost twenty years. The last one goes as far back as last Sunday.

            I went running in the back trails and couldn’t help noticing the ravens again, speaking so loudly in their eloquent caws and clicks. One flew so low, I fell in love with the graceful way it glided and its gorgeous shimmery plumage, blacker than night. I watched how they met and flew, dance and mated. One would let out five caws and I’d here another answer back with five caws. Then seven caws, then four, then four, then seven, almost like the syllables of a poem. Even the clicks and trills had a symphonic rhythm.

            The ravens have appeared to me so much in the past few weeks, I decided to go on a shamanic journey and see if they were trying to tell me something.
            The first time I went on a journey to find my spiritual animal totem, I was about twenty years old. My friends and I journeyed through the Malibu national forest protected land until we found a sand cave that we visited when we wanted to connect with nature. The cave was never the same each time we saw it. It was made of sand and was full of carvings. It had a hole on top and many ashes in the middle where people had bon fires. You could tell by the types of carvings on the inside of the cave, that it attracted all kinds. My friend always sealed the hiking trail with some kind of “magic” spell so no one would bother us. Strangely enough, no one ever did. On the night of the shamanic journey, my other friend brought his own hand made drums. The beating of those drums would lead me deep into my subconscious and out into the unknown.

            He beat the drum during the meditation and I found myself going into some opening in the ground where I saw many animals. Before the journey, I thought that maybe the tiger would be my spirit animal. I really enjoyed the tiger style when I studied kung fu and some of my friends called me “tigress” but I was open to anything. I passed many animals, giraffes, dear, squirrels, even a lioness that felt very maternal but who told me I wasn’t ready for her yet. I kept asking each one of them if they were my spirit animal. When I saw the eagle, I didn’t have a chance to ask it anything because it grabbed me by its claws and swooped me up into the sky before I had a chance. I was told that I could ask my spirit animal anything I wished to know but first I relished in its flight and watched the figures beneath me grow smaller and smaller. I saw the lights of the city and its many hills and valleys. The view was amazing and humbling.

I decided to ask the eagle what would happen if I fall. Suddenly, it let me go and I sped to the ground. When I hit the grassy bottom hard, I laughed and thought, “that’s all?” Then the eagle picked me up again. “How far can we go?” I asked. I think the beat of the drum had changed rhythm somewhere in the background and my whole psyche was on the brink of something. The eagle took me up, past the sky and clouds, I found myself in outer space, surrounded by darkness and stars. The eagle just kept going, took me all the way up to the sun which blazed in its enormity and indescribable light. Then, the eagle left me there and went away. Strangely enough, I was not afraid. I was awestruck but fearless, floating there in the middle of the cosmos, experiencing the magnificence of the universe and my minute place within it.

This was the gift of wisdom the eagle brought me. This was the power that gave me the courage to journey by myself to the other side of the country, pay may way through school through odd jobs and pursue my dreams. The eagle can see the big picture and that ability to step outside myself and above any pettiness that might cause me to lose my way. It helped me survive the ghetto without ever losing site of what I wanted. But sometimes, the eagle can be a bit of a hermit and hold itself to a much higher standard.

***

Fifteen years later, a mother with a family to raise, I wanted to reconnect with my animal totems. I knew there was more to me than the eagle and I was curious as to what spirit could help me in my circumstances. My friend, who led me through the first shamanic journey years before was also married with his own family. We no longer had the freedom to journey into the woods late at night on a whim, but he still offered his spiritual services in the guise of a CD with shamanic drums recorded on them. I played the drums and found myself diving deep into the ocean.

It was the whale who drew me there and we swam together, side by side. She felt so warm and compassionate, unlike the strong, intellectual eagle whose plane was everything in the air and above. That whale took me into a dark voyage deep into the reaches of my subconscious, a place so deeply personal I can barely describe it. I’m sure I wrote about it and maybe that journal entry is buried somewhere in a box with my other writings. I must say, the realm of the ocean was scarier than the realm above the earth but with the whale by my side I was not afraid of what I had to face deep within myself.
I did manage to write two books under the guidance of the whale, so dark and sensual, yet, so maternal and warm.

***

Five years later, I’m seeing ravens everywhere and I know I have to learn what they are trying to tell me. I do a search on youtube for spiritual animal drumming. I only have a bit of time, being a working mom. I find the perfect video, a woman with a drum and she leads me through it while I sit in a cross legged position in front of the screen.

I remember it as if it were yesterday, because I just did it yesterday. Lol. First I went into the underworld and found myself entombed in the plane of the spirits and of nature. In my first shamanic journey, I approached each animal cautiously, politely asking them if they were my spirit animal. This time, I reconnected with each of them as if they were long lost friends. I rolled in the long grass and scurried with the bugs. I ran on hands and feet with the dear and rolled with the playful coyotes. I waved “hi” to the whale as it swam past me in the ocean. I knew they were all part of me in some form or another and after all these years, I have become comfortable with this.

It’s the wolf that catches my attention, its eyes burning with a ferocity I relate with and it walks by my side, promising me that it will protect me no matter what. I was always the cautious type keeping my space and analyzing things keenly before approaching. This mentality has kept me alive, especially when I was young starving artist living in the ghetto.

Then the raven finds me, cawing and chattering as it does in real life. What is it trying to tell me? We walk through the realms, past the animals and I’m aware that I’m not in the air on in the water. I’m on the ground, being protected by the wolf and the raven is telling me that there is some way of living in between the worlds without having to constantly split off my personality. Maybe she’s also telling me that I need to learn to communicate better as being either deep in the ocean or high above everyone has cut me off from the rest of mankind. This is probably the hardest thing for me to do, live between the realms and something about the raven is teaching me that there are realms between realms that we can’t even see, ways of shifting through atoms and jumping between universes. The wolf is telling me that this is a dangerous endeavor because I can no longer hide in my subconscious or escape into the stars, observing mankind from the outside. Yet, I’ll be okay because the wolf will never let anything happen to me.

I know the raven is a messenger between the dead and the living and there have been some strange deaths lately. I do remember getting a reading done when I was young and the raven came up as my spirit animal. I think its teaching me to find the intuition I had as a child, something I learned to suppress because I feared its power. I know the raven has always been here, even as a child. I wish the journey could have been longer but it was a timed journey and I found myself coming back to reality as we know it. I’ll definitely be exploring more of what the raven is trying to teach me. Lord knows they’re everywhere. The moment I step outside, there is always one in site.

***

When I told my son about this, he looked up the youtube video and wanted to try it so we went back to the underworld. I saw the raven and the wolf again. The raven was trying to tell me something. It liked to talk in its own language and I think it was saying “look look. There’s something important you’re not seeing.” When it flew it didn’t pick me up. I flew behind it, knowing my own way of taking flight. I flew into the sky and realized I didn’t need the raven. I flew into the minds of some of my friends.

***

Yesterday I went to the trail where I do the sprints, surprised that the ravens didn’t greet me as soon as I entered the trail. As I ran, I could feel the spirit of the wolf near me. I thought that it would be funny if I suddenly saw a wolf though there aren’t any wolves in these parts. Strangely enough, a lone wolf appeared. It stood about fifty yards away. I gazed at it, admiring its beauty. At some point our eyes met and it turned away. I started wondering if this wolf really did come out of the woodwork. We get coyotes around here, but I don’t think we get wolves. A bunch of other dogs started to show up with their owners and I continued with my workout. The dogs started to play with each other and I saw a woman standing alone with her dog on a leash. Was that the wolf I saw?

I asked her what kind of dog it was and she told me it was a Czechoslovakian wolf dog. When I remarked of its beauty, she told me that it had problems. “Like what?” I asked. She told me it liked to be alone and didn’t like other dogs and people. Yet, as the other dogs played and I stood there in front of it, the dog seemed perfectly calm. I never heard it utter a sound.

When I got home, I decided to do another shamanic journey, still a bit disappointed that I didn’t spend enough time with the wolf. I found a drumming meditation that didn’t involve a guided voice and put myself in another trance.

This time, as I journeyed into the underworld, I feel myself growing younger. I open a door in the middle of the woods and see it is a child’s hand that is opening it. I can’t be more than five years old now. When I go down, I find myself in a dark place, a cave of sorts, similar to the real cave where I did my first journey. I see the raven and the wolf, but first I walk by a sleeping tiger. In another corner, there is a dark beast, so dark and large, I can’t describe it specifically. I recognize it from a journey I went on many years ago. This was once the beast that (according to an old meditation) represented my fears and anger. I fed this beast and tamed it a long time ago. It sat there, murmuring in a deep growling noise. I walked up to it and it opened up, so I stepped inside. I went inside the beast.

Only the raven went with me. It didn’t pick me up as the eagle had. It merely stayed by my side as I flew and floated inside the large cosmos that made up the innards of the beast. It insisted that I could do all the flying myself. Unlike the eagle, it didn’t show me the view from up high or take me into the atmosphere of space. It started showing me the realms between the worlds, the different dimensions and astral planes. I saw myself as a child seeing myself as an adult and saw myself as a child seeing my adult self visit my adolescent self to tell me about my future husband and even to warn me about hurting him and I asked the raven which future self is this? The raven said that it was never a real future self, but only the future self my child self interpreted to be a future self back when I could see the future. But the child could only see things from her very inexperienced perspective. Still, I entered this journey as that child, the only one who could still parallel universe travel and I asked the raven about other astral realms and it started to take me to a blue part of the sky. I think we entered a square to get there. I wish I can remember or describe what was there but I can’t. The raven flew me through times, through perspectives, through between worlds and as the drum started calling me back, I found myself flying back from the beast which I viewed with much greater respect and affection. I was back in the cave, trying to ask the raven one more question before I had to go back. I asked it why the tiger was sleeping and as I approached it to wake it up, it stirred and for the first time. I was hesitant, wondering if it was ready to wake up and wondering what it represented. But the drums called me back to this world and I had somewhere to go anyway.

Looking back on the last journey, I feel a lot more at ease with a power I always feared in a strange way. It became clear to me, more than ever, that there is nothing to fear. There are only things we don’t understand, but once we understand them, there is no more to fear. It’s out in the light. We fear powerful predators such as tigers but once we understand their place in the order of the world, that fear turns to love and admiration. We fear the parts of ourselves that are capable of anything because we are attached to the insecurity of fear. At least, that’s how I see it. There are ways of looking at things that can give us perspective. When I was young, I stepped outside and saw the world from great heights. Then I went into the oceans and into my own soul. Then, I decided to look in between and see how it’s all somehow connected. I have to remind myself that I’ll always have this ability to stand back and see the big picture. I’ll always have the ability to go deep within. There will be times in my life where I might be confused about my place, times between phases where I might not know what I want. I have to remember my ability to meditate and go on journeys and I’m pretty sure that when that regal, powerful tiger wakes, she’ll be unstoppable.


"We meet ourselves time and time again in a thousand disguises on the path of life." --Carl Jung

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Demons, Angels, Karma and More Complicated Crap

I just heard the song “Demons” by Imagine Dragons on the radio for the millionth time and I had to ask myself, why am not sick of this song yet? The answer is perfectly obvious. Everyone loves this song because everyone has demons.

I have a feeling I’m going to get a bit dark and deep here today, a bit insane like I do in my novels and stories because it is my intention to state exactly what those demons are, but stick with me. I promise there’s a light side to all this. At least, I think there is. Everyone says they have demons, that they fight with them, wrestle with them or have to figure out a way to manage them but no one will say what they are. They wouldn't dare. I’m going to try to name them.

There’s a funny meme that goes something like, “I don’t just mess up once. I mess up at least five times just to make sure.” A friend of mine saw this and said that he usually gets it the first time he makes a mistake which is a great trait to have. I honestly said, “yeah, me too except this one thing.”
He replied, honestly as well, “actually, I have some things like that and they can be pretty devastating.”

Thus the demon hides in some karmic flaw, that one thing we just can’t fix. Everyone knows we have this flaw that we can’t change it, yet it can be “pretty devastating.” It’s that lesson God or nature keeps throwing at you and because you never learn it, you have to keep reliving it. It’s not a punishment per se. You burned your hand countless of times, but you keep putting your hand in the flame because you just can’t help it. You like fire. Over time you hate yourself and some people resent you for being this way. How many times do we have to tell you to stop putting your damn hand in the fire? But there it is.

That’s just one kind of demon. There are also those horrible childhood memories of abandonment or abuse. There are those past lovers or friends who jilted you or betrayed your trust. Are these demons? I gave it some thought and I guess maybe they can be demons. More than that, our fear and insecurity that stems from such situations are demons. Our fears and insecurities are probably our greatest demons of all, which is why we keep putting our hand in the fire. Maybe we’re just afraid not to because the fire is all we know.

Demons love fear and insecurities. Why else do we overly possess and protect our kids and lovers to the point of pain? Why else do people cheat and keep lovers, little safety nets on the side? Why else do people hang on to addictions as their own escape from a realty that is too frightful to face? Anger is just a reaction to fear. We fight and get aggressive because we sense danger, thus making stupid decisions. Fear and insecurity is like an open invitation for our demons to arrive. Demons really dig that stuff.

I thought a bit about what demons might look like. I figure, they could be really scary because they’re our worst fears, the kind we just can’t overcome. So they might be like a dark blob that cover us and we can’t see clearly because we are bathing in fear and stormy emotions.



But then I thought that maybe demons look the opposite. They are like the most beautiful things ever, like a trillion dollars or a ton of ice cream that we just can’t get enough of, until we realize that we had too much and we just want to puke. They are so beautiful that we can’t turn away. Reality seems so boring or they are the addictions we cling to so we can escape a reality that is much scarier.



There are the shadow demons, the shadow of our parents, ancestors or culture. These demons demand that you live up to the shadows of your elders or live down the infamy of their sins. Will you continue the cycle of violence that your family has created? Will you live up to your father’s expectations? Will you make up for the disappointments they had in themselves? Are you really as useless as they all make you feel you are? Why couldn't you make that soccer goal? The shadow demons pressure us to be someone we’re not and make us desperate to find out who is in there, beyond the shadow.



Then there are those invisible demons, the ones we never knew were there, until we do something totally stupid, hurt someone we love, act out in violence, risk something we know is really important or burn our bridges just so we could satisfy our ego. Then we wonder, what the hell was I thinking? Where did that come from?

There are so many things that demons can be but one thing is for sure, we struggle with them and they haunt us. We’re not always a hundred percent sure what they are but we know they’re there.

So what’s the light side to this? Well, I figure we’re all in this together. We just have to remember that. We have to accept the fact that we all have demons. We can’t judge each other by them. Sure, some people have more demons than others but we are all fighting our own battles and when we look at each other, we should accept that.

No one is one hundred percent innocent and we shouldn't expect ourselves to be, nor should we expect that from others. We can encourage each other to keep trying to be better but if you look at everyone with eyes that are trying to measure them up for morality, that’s your demon. Give me someone who puts on a mask of moral purity and I see someone who has the darkest demons to hide. Look at Bill Cosby and what is happening to him now. No one is innocent, not even the king of family values and wholesome comedy.

You can’t fight demons with demons. You can’t end demonic possession with anger or judgment or fear. Demons just feed off of that stuff. They love wars and insecurities and fights and anger. It just makes them bigger and more powerful.




From what I've gleaned in life and I've seen more than I let on, the only thing that tames a demon is forgiveness. The only angels I've ever seen are those who accept people, for who they are, give them a big hug and say, “I forgive you. It’s okay. We can work through this.”


I’m not saying that you have to let demonically possessed people walk all over you. If you have to keep your distance for your own safety, do so. But forgive them. Don’t burden them or yourself with more anger and more demons. Forgiveness is that higher ground that people are always talking about. I’ve had to forgive some horrible things in my life, things I can’t mention and it really was the only way out, the only escape from something that will suck you dry and keep you mired in one place for the rest of your life if you don’t move on. You have to forgive yourself too, because demons love nothing more than someone writhing in their own disgust and self hatred. Sometimes we have to just admit that we’re insecure, broken or afraid and so is everyone else. We’re in this together.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Nature and Silence

            I was doing hill sprints at hiking trail I just discovered, when I had to stop and take notice of a raven that sat in a tree. It just sat there and I wondered if it was looking at me. I noticed it because of the sound it made, a guttural knocking sound;  five beats in a unique rhythm. I wondered if it could pass as Morse code. For a moment, I wondered what it was trying to say.

            They say that ravens are intelligent birds with a complex spoken language. Funny how when you notice one thing, it leads right up to another. Who was it talking too? I noticed there was another raven making figure eights under the shade of some pine trees. In the background was a consistent rhythmic cawing. Suddenly, it seemed I was aware of this symphony of Ravens. I saw a few more flying back and forth in succession.

            I would never have noticed this had I not stopped to listen. I felt, for a moment, as if I could feel all the life in that area. The trees and leaves seemed to glow with a clear, white aura and I was at peace with the sensation. I even let go of my questioning. Were the ravens trying to tell me something? What were they saying to each other? But as soon as I let go of assigning meaning to the scenario, I felt like I was finally allowing the music of nature to fill me. I was present.

            I had recently canceled some social networking accounts and my brain was recovering from the constant clutter and conversations that had plagued it during the marketing of my book. Something told me it was time to let go of that phase and move on. I wonder if I would have noticed this if I didn't take the time silence the voices in my head.

            Now I’m free to be me again, to create and explore for the sheer joy of it. Time to pick up the pen and write a new book. Time to remember who I am and do what I always loved doing.

          Its fall. Time to shed what is unnecessary and embrace what’s left, the things that matter most.  I think it’s important to do that every once in a while, step back and ask myself if the path has brought me to a place of happiness.

Sometimes I find that I’m not where I wanted to be, or maybe I wished for something and realized that it wasn't right. Sometimes I have to reassess and ask myself if the risks were worth the reward. Am I willing to sacrifice time and privacy for fame? Am I willing to take time away from the kids to find success? What do I really want? Who am I? Am I still having fun? You can’t figure that out listening to what everyone else has to say. You have to shut it all off.

            Sometimes you just have to unplug and remember how things felt before being constantly hooked up to the matrix. Do we really have to be in the loop all the time? Silence has the answer because the questions no longer matter. They cease to exist. No more conceptualizing. Sometimes it’s nice to just let things be and know everything will turn out okay. And once we come to that final conclusion, that we can just let it be, then we've finally accepted ourselves. I remember who I am now. 



P.S. After writing about this in my journal, I did a search for raven spirit animals and here's what I got:

If Raven comes to you:

If Raven has come visiting you it can mean any number of things. Most powerful of all is the synchronicity that Raven assures you is pending. He is a master of bending and folding time and space so that you are exactly in the right moment at the right time. As a messenger you are reminded that those around you are reflecting back at you the things you most have to learn about yourself.
Know that when Raven appears that magic is imminent. Raven is about rebirth, recovery, renewal  recycling and certainly reflection and healing. He signifies moving through transitions smoothly by casting light into the darkness.

Raven as Your Totem

If Raven is your Totem animal you are very playful and creative. You have no fear of the dark, or the underworld and understand that there is a divine balance between the light and the dark. You find comfort in solitude and enjoy your own company. Raven seeks stillness and quiet, and prefer it to the constant onslaught of chatter and noise in our daily lives. You are wise and often are used as a messenger for others.  The spirit world uses you as a bridge to the physical world to bring forth its messages.

Raven in Your Dreams;

When Raven comes flying in your dreams he is letting you know that a change of consciousness is imminent. This omen signals you to watch for the clues and that new heights are possible. When Raven is still and silent looking at you he is invoking magic. Raven’s loudly raucous calling at you he is insistent that you take heed – you are missing something important or have forgotten a lesson learned. A Raven flying loops and upside down playfully is telling you to fasten your seat belt because everything has gone into hyper drive. Absolute magic is afoot.
Occasionally Raven can signify an impending death. This is usually signaled by feeding on carrion or preening of its feathers to show rebirth.
This was copied from : http://spirit-animals.com/raven/

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Lamenting the hundreds of stories I never published

I sat with my feet in the pool, trying to cool down my ankles and calves after an intense interval workout. I tried to relax, reading a compilation of fantasy and short stories. One of the stories reminded me of something I was going to write a long time ago. I dreamed it up and even wrote down an outline for it. Then I remembered another story I started writing but never finished many years ago. I even had a journal full of nothing but story ideas that was lost at a Barnes and Noble coffee shop fifteen years ago. It pisses me off when I see a movie released based on one of the ideas in that journal. So many stories that I never wrote, and my great regret will be dying having never told them in a way that only I can. These stories are in my mind, as real as a dream that you can’t wake up from but no one has heard them.

When I was a little girl, I’d come up with a story and start writing. I’d just write to write and oftentimes, my teachers couldn’t wait to see what I’d come up with. I’d turn a mundane writing assignment into an out of the box fantasy with monsters, parallel universe travel, curses and dreams that come to life.
In the seventh grade, it all ended. I had a teacher who saw no merit in fantasy and horror and she put down everything I wrote. I tried to appease her by writing something with a well thought out, realistic theme but none of my themes were good enough for her. After all, I was just thirteen years old. What could I teach her old, jaded soul?
No one knew what she wanted. A classmate complained that she didn’t know what to write. I asked her, “What do you like to read?”
“Mysteries,” she said.
“So write a mystery.”
“She won’t let me. Mysteries don’t have meaning.”
I just gave her a look of helplessness. What else could I do? I trusted my teachers and saw them as a great authority. I didn’t realize yet that one person’s opinion doesn’t have to mean so much. For every one person who doesn’t like mysteries or horror novels, there are thousands of raving fans.

When I look back, I keep seeing the seventh grade as the time when writer’s block became chronic. Never before that time did I have to question my inspirational ideas. I simply wrote whatever I wanted. I can’t blame my teacher. I allowed her to do this to me. If she hadn’t done it, someone else would have stepped in and played the critic.
We think we need to learn the rules of the game and we want to gain more knowledge as we grow up. We try to be the person the experts tell us we should be, but at some point, we end up looking for that child deep down inside who wasn’t afraid to create something. We want to be that playful sprite that took joy in her craft, before it was her duty to fulfill a role and follow the rules of convention.

“Fireflies” was a sordid piece, my attempt at screwing all people who wanted me to write something scholarly and civil. I’m amazed at how easily it sold. Then I published “Enlightened Ones” because it was a story that meant something to me, something I had to sweat blood to write.
But there’s still the day job and the responsibilities at home and I can’t live in a world of fiction all the time. And maybe that is also my fault. I wanted to have a career outside of writing to fall back on and most of the time, that career has taken first priority. After all, one must provide for one’s own

When reading the biography of Walt Disney, I’m amazed at how much debt he was willing to go into just to make his dreams into a reality. Through the depression and WWII, his studio struggled, yet he still went all out and spared no expense to be the first cartoonist to use music, the first cartoonist to make his cartoons talk, the first cartoonist to make his animations move fluidly, the first man to make a movie with surround sound, the first man to make an animated feature film and so much more. Disney owed money for two decades or more but he never succumbed to mediocrity, even though cheap cartoons were more economical. Due to the changing times, many great classics like Fantasia, Bambi and Sleeping Beauty turned out to be commercial failures. Yet, no animated creation could match those films for another forty or fifty years.
Walt Disney followed his passions no matter how many people around him told him to cut back. We all need someone like Disney, someone who seems to be a dreamer but in reality, it’s our insecurities and our slavish choice to put boundaries on ourselves that isn’t real.
Just the other day a friend of mine said, “And as I'm sure you realize, taking everybody else's advice isn't the way to greatness.” He’s so right. Why do we live, trying to be someone else’s vision of what we should be? People create formats and roles for life, for writing, for art. It’s the great pioneers who shatter these formulas, break down those boundaries and shock us with something greater than anything they could ever imagine.


“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable it is nor how it compares with any other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You don’t even have to believe in yourself and your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you.” –Martha Graham, dancer and choreographer