A Modern Mystic

Musings on life, work and contemporary spirituality


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Everybody is crazy

IMG_1356I have worked very hard to make a life for myself, to go after the experiences I want, to befriend the people with whom I enjoy spending time, to spend my income only on the things that I value. I don’t know whether I have been more conscious about my choices than most folks.

From the beginning, I set my sights on a lifestyle that happened to differ from my upbringing. I spent more time alone than with my siblings or the kids on the block. I loved school and  excelled in art class.  I went to college, unlike my siblings, and attended a big university, something never done in my entire extended family up to that time. I became a Buddhist. I was different. Or was I?

Part of my life-long makeover  has included estranging myself not only from the lifestyle in which I was raised, but also from my place of birth and the people closest to me. At first I easily justified my distance. I was off to see the world, to study abroad, to work in the big city. Now I see that my habit to move forward has helped me deny my past and escape the painful memories of my childhood.

Escaping has been easier since my parents died. My siblings and I, literally scattered across four different states, rarely speak. Unlike our upbringing, surrounded by grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, our children do not know one another. My support system involves a community of wonderful like-minded individuals, people with whom I share values, people who love and respect one-another. Wonderful people who help me distract myself from the pain of missing my history and roots.

Everything changed on Saturday. While enjoying a quiet  evening with my son, I got a “next of kin” phone call from the other side of the continent. My youngest sibling, a brother, had been admitted to the hospital with a suspected brain aneurysm. As he struggled in terrible pain in a hospital bed, I retreated to ponder the meaning of it all. I went, where I have always gone when chaos hits, to the safe, quiet place in my mind. I realized that I had no idea what to do.

There was, in fact, nothing to do. It was midnight. I was alone.  The next of kin, still the little kid, retreated to her room to “figure life out.” Waiting to hear, unable to sleep, I got on the Internet to research my brother’s condition. That’s when grace arrived in the form of an email from a cousin, an innocent Facebook comment on a photo I had posted earlier in the day. I don’t know what made me do it, but I hit “chat” and told her of my brother’s plight.

I awoke the next morning to a downpour of love and support. Aunts and uncles called, no matter that nine years had passed since the last conversation. Cousins put out the word and organized an impromptu prayer circle. Two cousins on Facebook conspired to send out word to track down my sister with whom I had lost contact years before. I spent the day — between phone calls to Mass General to  monitor Don’s condition — receiving the unconditional love and support of both sides of my extended family.

By the time I went to bed I was wrecked.

It’s about time. I have begun to relish the breakdown more than the control. Two sides of the same coin, I see that whether life is neat, tidy and arranged or whether it resembles the tilted deck of the Titanic, we are all in the same boat. I don’t know why everybody is so crazy. I do know that since at least the time of the Buddha, and most likely further back than that, people have suffered. We all want happiness and we are all doing our best to attain it. There are many strategies, many methods of coping. I’m not ready to say that I have the answer. I do understand today, however, that choosing my path does not necessitate rejecting all others.

I’m in a new mood to accept myself as one more crazy member of a sane and very loving family, and one more happy member of the suffering human race.

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The artist and the lover in bed together

Brian Lockyear, "Yin & Yang," Woodblock, ed. 25, 10 x 10 inches

Brian Lockyear, "Yin & Yang," Woodblock, ed. 25, 10" x 10"

“If you cannot caress your canvas, or your sculpting medium, you cannot caress your lover’s body — and if you can caress your lover’s body, you are an artist.”

from “Entering the Heart of the Sun & Moon” by Ngakpa Chogyam and Khandro Dechen

I am captivated by the process of falling in love. Being spiritually oriented as well as intellectually inclined, I can’t help gazing in wonder at the gift of love’s arrival in my life. In the moments when I am not actually gazing into my lover’s eyes, not physically entangled in his embrace, I simply must see love through the kaleidoscope of the various spiritual disciplines I pursue. I feel compelled to read about love and to chronicle my personal experience of the depth and height of the universal.

My Buddhist leanings dance with the Sacred Contracts work I will once again study intensively next week in Chicago.

In the book excerpted above, Entering the Heart of the Sun & Moon, Ngakpa Chogyam and Khandro Dechen discuss a little-known Tibetan Buddhist spiritual practice known as Khandro Pawo Nyi-da Melong Gyud or Vajra Romance. Spiritualizing relationship or relating spiritually involves two aspects. The first is to actively, consciously recognize the enlightened, complimentary qualities in one’s lover as a way of empowering those qualities in the self, for the betterment of all. Secondly, the romantic need to see, smell, touch, taste and hear one’s beloved, is opened wide to consciously include all of life, other people, our wider community, our experience of our own mind, our physical reality and everything. In Nyi-da Melong Gyud lovers challenge themselves to open to all of life and  to sustain the “falling in love” indefinitely through self-awareness and mirroring.

I have to admit that this practice perfectly illuminates my own sacred contract. With the Lover in the seventh house, I find that my passionate nature best expresses itself in interaction and relationship with others, but also in the spiritual pursuit of the inner or sacred marriage. My Mystic is devoted to a path of union with the Divine, in all forms. My Storyteller must talk about it even though my Coward fears such lofty pursuits!

Interestingly, I have fallen in love with an Artist. My beloved is currently following his heart. He recently left the safety and predictability of a long career in computer science to pursue his dream to become an architect and designer. His contract simply demanded creative freedom and self-expression. Fueled by a similar late-bloomer’s passion, we are meeting one another on familiar turf. Our union reminds me that the Lover and the Artist are quite happy in bed together, thank you!

It’s easy to see what the two have in common: a bridging of the spiritual and the material through passion, self-expression, appreciation, idealism, devotion and a desire to surrender to the chaos of creativity. In this light it would seem that the Artist and the Lover are one and the same. Instinctively we know that it is not so! (In my work as an archetypal consultant, I help my clients untangle such fine distinctions in order to uncover their own contracts for self-realization, self-guidance and growth.)

How then do the Artist and the Lover differ? I believe it is exactly in the dimensions of male and female described well in many Western as well as Eastern sources. The Artist defines his passionate relationship to the world  through creation (form) while the Lover passionately appreciates the creation (emptiness). Are they not the Yang and the Yin, the convex and the concave as Chogyam and Dechen express it?

And what of the romance that arises between them, the continual dance of emptiness and form? As a Lover I am experiencing the interplay as an illumination of my own inner Artist. In the process of being in love, I feel alive to express my joy, enthusiasm, and gratitude in the form of my medium, the written word. At another time in my life, an experience of love resulted in pregnancy and the birth of a tiny human being, the ultimate creation!

Likewise my beloved, the Artist, experiences the dance in his creative output, a masters thesis complete with renderings, models and prose. But through the lens of romance he also plays to his inner Lover. He connects with a newfound passion and appreciation for his work, a satisfaction present only when there is a beloved present to accept/receive his gift.

The Lover and the Artist thus reveal themselves as the sacred feminine and the sacred masculine of the creative archetypes. They dance as the Dakini and Daka, receptive and active romantic forces. In love as in art, it matters little which gender plays which role. The enterprise depends more on the dynamic foreplay of lover and beloved, the inspired ah ha with which the artist seizes his brush. Each sees the perfect enlightened complement in the mirror of other. Emptiness into form, form into emptiness. Both enter the spiritual dimension beyond time and space, beyond happiness and suffering, beyond gender, beyond self, the boundless creativity of the present moment.

May the Lover and the Artist enjoy a long and timeless love affair!

(thank you, sweetie, for the inspiration and the artwork!)


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Creative control is an oxymoron

I’ve always wanted to live a creative life, to be free to express myself and thereby brighten the world with beauty, love, truth. Although I have dabbled my whole life in the arts — drawing, painting, music, poetry, dance — my creativity flows best in the form of words and ideas. Words give voice to one’s thinking, and thought is, for good or ill, the most powerful form of energy on the planet.

I don’t know why this should be, but indecisiveness and worry seem to be the evil twins of creativity. I had a dream several months ago, just before a big letting go which brought many creative opportunities to me:

dream collage, carrie ure

dream collage, carrie ure

I’m standing in a huge dry river bed on the slope of a great mountain. There are large boulders everywhere and it’s clearly the scene of previous cataclysmic geological events. Suddenly someone yells to come inside. They’re about to “push the button.” I enter the building, a huge hall that parallels the length of the river, with gigantic viewing windows. Just as soon as I enter the building an enormous cascade of water comes shooting down the river. And then it’s full, calm. The water is lovely, blue and translucent. I wade into it and move my hands through its fresh clean opulence. I see something shimmering and I realize that the water is full of beautiful golden pearls. I lift my hand, scooping the perfect dazzling round gems.

I’m learning to be a conduit for creativity. To me, the urge to redecorate a room, paint a watercolor, make love, all come from a depth of tapping into the universal creative force we call life. My creativity comes from living. It can only be accomplished in the present moment and it’s an unmistakable feeling of being alive. It’s the ultimate form of letting go. And that’s where the fear comes in. Just as soon as we let go, we are no longer grasping. We grasp from fear and we feel the fear as we let go.

How many of us would prefer to live a life of control? Don’t we often get caught wanting to depend on something or someone? Wouldn’t we like to be prepared for the next unpredictable moment? Don’t we try, again and again, to nail the Jell-o to the wall? We want to live the creative life, the life of freedom and yet we demand a regular pay check at the end of the week.

I don’t have all the answers yet in my own life. I do try to remember that I am the channel for this divine creative force that wants to run through me. I can choose to dip in and out, pull out the gems that flow plentifully. I can never try to control the flow. It’s too vast. So I tune my vessel, keep it polished and try not to stop it up with unnecessary worry, fear, resentment. And when, on those days it’s just not flowing, I sit still and pray.


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Landing the Plane

img_38241When you’re an air type like me (Moon conjunct Mercury in Libra, 2 Clubs and King Clubs in Destiny Cards, 29/11 in numerology, etc.), inspiration comes out of the woodwork. The downside is a tendency to over-think everything. My spiritual work continues to be about balance; my lofty idealistic nature must bow to the humbler aspects of life such as eating three meals a day, putting a paycheck in the bank, remembering to hug those I love. Or as my favorite business coach was fond of saying, “Carrie, you’ve got to land the plane!”

Nowhere does this pas de deux express itself better than in the dance of love. Ah, love. Certainly I’m not the first air-head to fall in love. Search on the words “love poetry” to get scores of verses from every century in which humans have had the written word. And before that I’ll bet they were singing about it. So what does an air-type do when she has fallen head over heals and those heals desperately need to touch ground? (You know, so she can make breakfast, hug her kid before he goes to school and sit her butt at the desk!)

First, I have cats. My cats, especially my girl, Havana, keep me on task. They wake me at 6:30 for their breakfast. It doesn’t matter if I have spent the entire night writing love poetry or searching my beloved’s and my astrological charts for auspicious aspects to analyze. Breakfast must happen, otherwise Havana begins shredding the couch to bits. This knowledge tends to get me to bed by 10:30 p.m. Lovers need their beauty rest.

My kitties also help me to keep the house clean. Loki likes to “dip” his kibble in the water bowl. He drops one in, fishes it out, tosses it onto the floor and then eats it. Meals might entertain him, but Havana finds the whole thing disgusting. When the eating place gets too messy she stages loud hunger strikes. If that doesn’t work she goes to the couch or shreds loose papers lying around. She especially enjoys homework, un-cashed checks and receipts for merchandise that must be returned. I change the water and sweep up the kibble bits at least three times a day. This keeps the cats happy and the household in order and the focus prevents me from rocketing into the stratosphere thinking about my sweetheart.

My second strategy, parenting, grounds my ego, more than my body lately. I must say I do complete mundane household tasks such as grocery shopping, simple food preparation and laundry regularly when my teen son is home. Okay, well maybe I don’t do food preparation. But every day at 5:00 p.m. Asher asks, “Mom, where are we going for dinner tonight?” That at least gets me on my feet and into the car. I spend most of my parenting time driving him around while learning about major league baseball statistics and the rest of the time scrubbing out grass stains. I highly recommend the scrubbing.

My third grounding strategy is to engage you, dear reader.  Blogging does it for me. Blogging allows me to spin my ideas out into the world wide web. It doesn’t get any more ethereal than that. I can write to my heart’s content, try out new ideas, keep you all abreast of the connections that threaten to clog my brain. Blogging forces me to use my rational organ until it is thoroughly exhausted. Considering that I only publish about one out of every five posts that I compose, you can see just how over-active it is.

I have a whole filing cabinet full of other grounding ideas — there’s yoga and exercise, swimming, walking, playing frisbee with Asher. There are reflexology balls on the floor beneath my desk. I have a small patio container garden and a basket full of unfinished knitting projects (Yeah, right!). And dancing is an option that I have chosen in the past. For now, I think I’ll put all those things on the back burner and look forward to being with my sweetheart. To quote Leonard Cohen, “There ain’t no cure, there ain’t no cure, there ain’t no cure for love.”