Thursday, February 28, 2008

"Only the Gods Are Real"

The most wonderful and brilliant Neil Gaiman (if you're a comic book or graphic novel fan, you may know of Sandman; he also co-wrote the screenplay for last year's Beowulf), has had Harper Collins put up a full length e-copy of American Gods online. You can find it here. Please spread it widely around the internet, as it will only be available for approximately a month. It is by far, my favorite Gaiman novel so far. I love Stardust and am eagerly awaiting The Graveyard Book, but if you haven't ever read him before, go in with an open mind and a sense of adventure. And remember, only the Gods are real...

It Must Be Felt

I, along with my mother and millions of others, am reading Eckhart Tolle's book, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose. It happens to be Oprah's new Book Club Selection. Not that this is the reason I picked up, nonetheless, I am currently within the first fifty pages.

This book is the inspiration for this space of mine.

First let me explain what is Soma.
The word soma means Body. You have probably seen in use in terms of the Somatic. But, furthermore, it is the degree of being-ness when the material or the physical turns into God. In kind with the final desired outcome of Alchemy, it as a state of conscious- ness. Soma is also the name of the Vedic God of Bliss. *Bliss is: blithesomeness; gladness; the now, the highest degree of happiness; blessedness; exalted felicity; heavenly joy. And the way that these two identifying definitions combine in mind is the outcome that I am looking for.

I have spent the last (nearly) nine years struggling with The Body, it's physicality, it's spirituality, the trust it demanded from me, the faith in my intuition that I was unwilling to give, as well as an obsession with purity and health (not that purity and health are inappropriate things to be desirous of, but anything that becomes obsessive has already crossed the line of both). What I did not realize was that I was missing a sense of connectivity to my own life. I abused my body with food and thought and then would become malevolent with it for doing what I was (indirectly) telling it to do. I detested the fact that I was girl... in fact I still have trouble admitting to myself that I am a (gulp) woman. I was afraid to be because I was afraid of being myself. I have done everything I could to try and stack the deck in (what I thought was) my favor... but for all the "winnings" and accolades that came with that path, it has only further severed my ability to recognize who I truly am, and furthermore: I'm exhausted. Thus, I have named this new space: Somatique (a french version of somatic, or the body) because I intend it to be a documentation of a new understanding into a journey of seeing and experiencing My Body with a blissful attitude.

Aha. Back to Tolle. On page 38, he begins to tell the anecdote of "The Lost Ring" and it goes as such:

"When I was seeing people as a counselor and spiritual teacher, I would visit a woman twice a week whose body was riddled with cancer. She was a schoolteacher in her midforties and have been given no more than a few months to live by her doctors. [...] One day,
[...] I arrived to find her in a state of great distress and anger. What happened? I asked. Her diamond ring, of great monetary as well as sentimental value, had disappeared, and she said that she was sure it had been stolen by the woman who came here to look after her for a few hours everyday. She didn't understand how anybody could be so callous and heartless as to do this to her. She asked me whether she should confront the woman or whether it would be better to call the police immediately. I said I couldn't tell her what to do, but asked her to find out how important a ring or anything else was at this point in her life. You don't understand, she said. This was my grandmother's ring. I used to wear it every day until I got ill and my hands became too swollen. it's more than just a ring to me. How can I not be upset?

The quickness of her response and the anger and defensiveness in her voice were indications that she had not become present enough to look within and to disentangle her reaction from the event and observe them both. [...] I said, I am going to ask you a few questions, but instead of answering them now, see if you can find the answers within you [...]. I asked, Do you realize that you will have to let go of the ring at some point, perhaps quite soon? How much more time do you need before you will be ready to let go of it? Will you become less when you let go of it? Has who you are become diminished by the loss? [...] When she started speaking again, there was a smile on her face and she seemed at peace. [She said] The last question made me realize something important. First, I went to my mind for an answer and my mind said: 'Yes of course you have been diminished.' Then I asked myself the question again, 'Has who I am become diminished?' This time I tried to feel rather than think the answer. And suddenly, I could feel my I Am-ness. I have never felt that before. If I can feel the I Am so strongly, then who I am hasn't been diminished at all."

Tolle goes on to say that this is the "Joy of Being." And that you can only "feel it when you get out of your head." He says: "being must be felt."

The woman then says, "I now understand something Jesus said that never made sense to me before: 'If someone takes your shirt, let him have your coats as well.' [Tolle then says:] That's right. It doesn't mean you should never lock your door. All it means is that sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on."

I have for too long held on to things that are not real. And when I say that they are not real it is because I have created them out of fear. The old saying, "there is nothing to fear but fear itself" is powerful. Because fear is the great immobilizer, it clings to irrational rationalizations and convinces you that there is no hope, you are alone and ultimately you are about to die (more on this topic in the next post). A wise man in my life recently took apart that word for me: rationalize. And by doing so, we discovered that the word ration is tucked in there, slyly in plain sight. To rationalize is to do things or place things into portions. In other words, you are never able to see or experience the bigger picture, the kit-and-caboodle, the whole enchilada.
Fear removes you from seeing what is true and real about you in any particular moment.
I have fought the present moment for years, even when I know better.

Tolle does say that there is one thing we do know, that: "life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at this moment."

So there it is. This new journey you are embarking on with me is due to the realization that Being must be felt. And so I intend to do so. I intend to Be.

I highly recommend reading the book

*If you are interested in more of the background to all this, although I'm sure pockets will get filled in here or there, you can visit my old blog Somewhere in the Body-Life.

The Last Bite (From the Body-Life)

I have become very annoyed by seeing that every cookbook on health begins with Hippocrates. “Let Food Be thy Medicine and Medicine, Thy Food…” It always appears somewhere, usually in the first twenty pages, if it wasn’t the opening quote. This concept attributed to Hippocrates, was what drew me into food and nutrition long before I knew who spoke the words. This goes to show how true and natural concepts become pervasive, especially when one is looking for it. And I know that this is a truth. That food heals. But so do our thoughts… and it has gotten to the point that no matter what I put into my mouth, I am in judgment about it. I rationalize, polarize, and vacillate into extremes out of the need to control something! Let me have control over one tiny part of something… let me get out of this fear that unravels and twitters behind every thought, every action: nothing is sincere anymore, or at least, sometimes, it feels this way.

Food has become so many things for so many people. It is not merely what provides sustenance, for many it is comfort, love, acceptance, a drug, an obsession, another means of control, another way to abstain from any sense of being, a numbing shot against pain or grief, pornographic gastronomy... of which, all I am guilty of, I'm sure. And then there it was, on the top of page 30 in Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions: my ultimate issue.

“The desire to abstain from animal products, found so often in those of a spiritual nature, may reflect a longing to return to a former, more perfect state of consciousness that was ours before our souls took embodiment in a physical material plane […].”

I find myself in this struggle of what I relate to in my spiritual sense and my fear and buffering against the joy and the sorrow of the physical body. The compassion for all living creatures, the love in their eyes and innocence, mixed with my craving for animal protein. Most of the time, meat tastes dead to me. But then I can remember a bacon-wrapped date that dissolved in my mouth with such exquisite sweetness, such tender, melt in your mouth, salty, crispy sublimity, it had a density which made the tongue giggle all on its own. And I don't even like pork. But there was such attention put into that meal, that night, in Marin County, under palm trees and lanterns, sharing wine amongst friends.

It’s not that I think raw food is not of benefit to my body, but I have developed so many food-rules for myself, that I feel like I am just using raw as one more way to control what goes in my mouth. I have a very bizarre eating disorder. I’m not bulimic, although I have made myself throw up …more in the last 2 years than ever in my adolescence. But I definitely have a binge-purge pattern going on, especially when I look at my food journal. I didn’t think I starved myself… but some days, I eat hardly anything at all… and wonder why I am so maniacally famished into downing too much pasta or potatoes the next: my body is screaming for quick glucose. I am realizing that I have royally screwed up my relationship with my body. I stopped seeing it as sacred: it was the enemy.

Whenever it comes to food, thoughts about said bacon-wrapped bounty are always essential (in what way, who knows?) … But I think it is also what thoughts and intentions I use in preparation. One of spiritual my teachers, a small Indian man with a gravelly voice would stand over his pot of rice or sautéing ginger garlic onions, and say: “You are so beautiful. You are the most wonderful onions. Look at you, look at how beautiful you are.” The tomatoes blushed in response. The same man also said that whenever you truly enjoy something… not out of craving-aversion-lust-compulsion: but genuinely enjoy – it all turns to soma. And no matter how healthy something else is, if your body is in judgment or in fear-hate-compulsion about it, it becomes ama … undigested matter = dis-ease.

Somewhere between nineteen and twenty-six years old, I had developed a love-hate relationship with food. A need to stuff myself with the most sublime things, coupled at other moments with anything that would do to make me numb, send me into a carbohydrate induced coma, just anything to not feel. Now, to be clear, this was not fast food or ice cream. I was a health foodie, all-organic everything. Whole grain, (spelt, buckwheat, barley, brown rice, quinoa) what’s-it and every manner of vegetable. I had an adventurous palate, within reason (no chicken feet stew or sweetbreads has made it past my lips, and I’m pretty sure that won’t change). But then again, organic pasta was always enough to send me down that dark spiral, where the fog rolls in on the east coast of consciousness and nothing but the blur and heft of fullness can be felt. Here, I didn’t have to think about school or sex or the unfairness I always associated with be female, I could just disconnect from any sub-sensual method of being alive and slip away into a useless stupor; a drug just as powerful as anything you could inject into the bloodstream, by needle, and almost as fast. I was addicted to not feeling. But like any addiction, it never really makes you feel good for very long, and when the fog cleared, the sun always rises the next morning and the pain (which I had pushed so deeply into my sinews, my feminine parts, places I knew that at least, I would never look, into cavernous brokenhearted hotels, muscles, curvaceous fatty deposits that I had never had before) was still there. I am a self-admitted food snob Spiritual egoist, South beach (tried it), Zone (tried it), Macrobiotics (tried it), Ayuveda, Vegetarian, Vegan(tried it), Raw food(tried it): glutton(tired of it). And am so sick of all the labels.

Someone recently asked me, have I ever tried just letting my body have whatever it actually wants? No judgments no second-guessing and after really thinking about it… no I haven’t. I have never actually let my body, not my neuroses, pre-programmed food-abridged rule induced conceptualized intellectualized rationalization, make a single decision in my life. I am beginning to suspect (har) that my issues with food will not go away with being thin or healthy, because they are 100% of the mind.

M has been on this wonderful kick of picking “intention” cards for the week – one of these for me was : I Love My Body.

…maybe I should just try that for awhile. And talking to my mom, she says: wow. I think you think too much. And she says, whenever I start to think too much, I should just breathe. Whenever you see yourself spiral into old thoughts, trying to find someplace in the head where its safe... just breathe. Ok. I will. I'll breathe. Love and Breathe.