Above “Progress”

I consider my relationship to thought as all the big-time gurus suggest we do, and lo and behold, find that my thoughts have a striking similarity to the spinning rainbow wheel of death that shows up on my Mac when there’s a problem. Often, like the wheel, my thoughts spin around hypnotically, moving yet stuck, trapped in their own viscous momentum. Then I have to reboot by turning everything off.

Certain activities like yoga and soaking in the tub help me to reboot. They free me from my violent need to know; they soften my grip on the line between the real and unreal and help me open up to other…experiences. Imagination is awakened. Then I can resume my participation in the world from this looser place, until that is, my thoughts seize up on me again. Well, let’s just say, I take a lot of baths. I like to get really witchy with it too: incense, candles, crystals, salts, oils and yes, flower petals.

“Fess up about your little dolls,” says Mr. Octopus.

“They are not dolls! They are figurines! And so what if I put Yoda on the rim of the tub? He helps me write.”

“He?”

Anyway, as a dancer, I relied heavily on my imagination. I transformed the studio into a magical place. Each movement brought a new color, a new element or responded to another energy in the space. I found that imagination could bring depth and sensitivity to a movement that might otherwise be academic. I try to inspire dancers to play with the mystery, to rescue them from the cult of thought that has afflicted the rest of the world because not only is unimaginative dancing boring, but it leaves me with nobody but Mr. Octopus here to play with and that’s sad.

“Hey, what am I? Chopped liverrr!”

Modern culture seduces us to always look cool behind our sunglasses and our perfect skin, but the mask is death to the imagination. It’s hard to resist getting caught up in appearances. There are fewer and fewer spaces left in our modern world that help us get beyond the surface, places that are not covered with advertising and in-form-ation. Being in a sacred space where we can drop our masks is one of the reasons I am so drawn to ritual. Rituals show us that we really can exist in another, more authentic way, that we can exist in community and with generosity instead of withering competition.

Most humans I see, including myself, are addicted to the mean realm of thought, but the more I open myself to ritual, the more I am shown who I really am, have always been, and that makes me seriously question where narrow, literal, spiritless, mechanistic thought has gotten us. Now with the advent of technology, it is possible to stay locked in your thoughts for extended periods of time. It appears that a lot of people want to stay locked in thought forever. Eek! But, golly, I’d like to have an occasional spontaneous experience that is part of a flow much larger than myself. An experience of the flow that contains me and, uh, others in a way that is, uh, meaningful.

There’s a lot of bad talk these days against finding meaning. There is a statement floating around out there, gaining swift momentum, that says life has no meaning. I know Joseph Campbell says that what we are really searching for isn’t so much meaning as it is the experience of being truly alive, but I think we can only have that fully when our actions are in relationship. In relationship to others, we find meaning. What if life is the meaning? Maybe creating and sustaining life is what gives things meaning. Maybe life gives meaning to itself. It’s easy to see why that’s not a popular understanding in a modern culture that has abandoned life.

A young woman on the train the other day wore a tattoo that said in a necklace of words beneath her collar-bone: “Come Armageddon, Come.” This young woman was mirroring our culture back to us. While I respected her expression, I also felt despair at the ghost of hopelessness she inherited. I felt the stern gaze of our indigenous ancestors peering over my shoulder who once adorned themselves to resemble aspects of nature. I felt a deep sense of loss.

How does all of this tie into our addiction to thoughts? Because we have elevated thought above feeling, also above experience, we have put our existence in a perilous place. And in order for us to heal we have to examine the root of the issue, to place thought (intellect) in service to the heart, in service to life, not above it.

We need to restore our feeling self to its rightful throne. Wherever we think we are going so fast and furious with all this technology, we have to remember that there is no place we can get to that is outside of life. Feeling into life brings us into relationship and maybe we’ll start using all our smarts to support life, instead of to simply avoid it by making it faster, easier, more profitable and more efficient.

I keep thinking about the girl on the train. Her tattoo was a statement of her pain and I felt it. I wanted to hug her and the her inside me because some times I feel like giving up too. I wanted to tell her I am sorry. I am sorry for the mess of the experiment of individualism, for the prostitution of beauty. I want to thank her for the courage it took for her to mirror us back to ourselves in all our violence and ugliness. I want to recognize her gifts and welcome her into a community that values her life above money and above “progress.”

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