Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Personal Encounter With Sathya Sai Baba

The recent death of the most famous, acclaimed, and notorious of East Indian gurus, Sathya Sai Baba, has proven a major ink-blot test and a perfect example of how belief determines our experience.
      Whether an observer believes Sai Baba was (is?) a faker of fraudulent miracles and possibly a sexual opportunist, or a genuine high yogi and possible avatar, depends entirely on the observer's beliefs! It's also an intriguing measure of skepticism and open-mindedness.
      My own awareness of this remarkable man who ended up with an estimated 30 million followers worldwide and who received some 8-to-9 billion dollars in gifts and donations during his lifetime, began in 1972 in Berkeley, California. In a metal fabrication and casting class I attended at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, I became friends with a man named Gail who had been in the marines and after that went to India.
      On the sub-continent he went to Puttaparthi, witnessed Sai Baba's miracles and met him and returned to the USA with a pendant that had been summoned from thin air for him + a packet of vibhuti or sacred ash also manifested by Sai Baba. Intrigued by all this and curious, I went with Gail over to San Francisco to chant bhajans or holy songs in honor of Sai with a little group.
      Though I've never been a follower of anyone, really, nor religious, something in my gut told me Sai Baba was the real deal, the big enchilada of gurus; I felt he was simply someone with a different relationship to spacetime and matter than most folks. His teachings held particular appeal, as he told his "followers" not to abandon their own beliefs, and he required no codified behaviors. He had no wish to be worshiped, only to inspire devotion to God.

      "I am God," he admitted, but added, "You too are God. The only difference between you and me is that while I am aware of it, you are completely unaware." If you can know someone by their works, Sai Baba did a great deal of practical good, spending most of those billions of $$$ given to him to build hospitals, orphanages and schools all over India. Once for a major soccer game he arranged, he had a stadium built at Puttaparthi!
      Not long ago, when I heard that Sai Baba was hospitalized and not doing well in his 80s, for some reason I decided to check out the various reports of fakery and sexual abuse. There are plenty of vids on youtube and elsewhere online trying to prove such allegations. It did not take much investigation to track down the real origins of those attack on the man's integrity in the Christian fundamentalist camps of the most rabid sort.
      Of course, some skepticism about the miracles comes from the overly-rational closed minds of scientific thinkers, as well. At any rate, I really sought to evaluate it all as objectively as possible and now more than ever I feel that Sai was an authentic avatar.
      My own personal encounter with the man came in 1973. By then I lived in a seedy little roach-infested apartment in Oakland near CCAC. I'd recently had most of the paintings I did over several years all stolen in one night and was in the process of flipping out. My obsession for a while became going to India. "If only I can go see Sai Baba and sit at his feet, I'll be fine!" was my thought.
      One night, in the middle of the night I woke up. Standing in a corner of my bedroom was a tiny dark-skinned man with a huge fluffy afro and a saffron-colored gown to the floor. He smiled and extended open hands towards me. "You don't need to come to India to see me!" he said. "I'm here with you, as I AM everywhere."
      Of course, has I gone to India, I would have taken my problems with me, as we always do; only I took Sai's advice and I'm grateful to him to this day.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Gratitude For EVERYTHING: No Exceptions!

I've figured out something curious about my energy cycle just recently. Getting enough sleep, usually at least 6 or 7 hours at night is important, yet much more than that seems to be a lot worse for me. More than 8 or 9 can leave me depleted of energy, almost depressed, which is not me!
      So what's this obsession with sleep? I adore sleep! It's that great mystery of voluntarily slipping over the edge of the abyss into oblivion--the radical shift for apparently being present, awake and at least somewhat aware in your life, and then dissolving into seeming non-existence. Every night this happens.
      "Gone. Gone. Gone beyond," as it says in the Heart Sutra.
      Oh yes, there are dreams, of course, though to me dreams seem less like significant messages or symbols than simply parallel universes where I connect with glimpses of complete alternate lives in other worlds. Similar, though never quite identical Bruces experiencing realities that I may recognize, and yet those world differ to varying degrees: ever so slightly; quite a bit; plenty; a great deal; or radically.
      Physics these days has room for the possibility of infinite parallel universes, though most scientists would tell you there can be no actual communication between these endlessly branching timelines . Without getting technical, I simply beg to differ . . . as I seem to experience many many parallel universes in my sleep, during dreams.
      Of course, dreams can be highly significant and even direct messages. Certainly Jung got that right, though more often I'm inclined to just let them be what they are.
      Recently a dream struck me and took my breath away. I've mentioned in an earlier blog that not long ago I began painting in oils again for the first time in 20 years. A few years before that, my father who lived up in Colorado passed away. he had always encouraged and appreciated my creativity.
      I never dreamed about him since he died, until a few months back. I saw him and we were simply chatting. "I really like your new paintings," he said, "especially the ones you're going to do in the future."
      Now that's a message to be grateful for!
      Of course, one of the most amazing things about the voluntary oblivion of sleep is that you always come back, or at least so far that's my experience. Sometimes it surprises me: from nothing to everything and back again.
      Here I AM again!
      Gratitude is something I'd like to extend impersonally, not only to what I like or consciously appreciate, but to everything in existence. I mean, who AM I to judge what should or should not be? My likes and dislikes are trivial in the scheme of things. My gratitude doesn't mean much if I limit it according to my personal preferences.
      So. I'm grateful for EVERYTHING: no exceptions!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Why Plants Are Smarter Than We Are!

On Sunday the 17th Tomas and I attended a workshop in Austin by erotic activist Annie Sprinkle. She introduced her current enthusiasm for what she calls "SexEcology." Annie is a totally amazing woman, bright, funny and deeply sincere in her desire to help us save our planet. She defines SexEcology as "The art of exploring the Earth as a lover." This also means treating Earth as we would our beloved.
      During her lecture and slide-show she mentioned that James Cameron's AVATAR was inspired by his early psychedelic experiences. Of course the film is not only visually dazzling, but deeply ecosexual. In a nice synchronicity, Tomas and I had just obtained the Extended Edition of the film. With its powerful depiction of the Na'vi natives of the moon Pandora, so attuned to the living web of their environment, this is not merely escapist fare.
      Cameron's film is really about our own planet; its real message is how urgently we ourselves need to reconnect with Nature.
      This can only be done with deep humility and willingness to overturn common assumptions--for example that we are the crown of creation; also that animals are superior to plants. Ahem! Excuse me! In reality we know that the vegetative ancestors of the biosphere go back far longer than what we now call animals. In fact, it is quite clear that animals evolved later on to serve the purposes of the plant intelligence. Remember, plants create our oxygen and feed everything on Earth. The only exception are a few deep-sea chemical feeders at thermal vents deep under the ocean.

      Animals are mobile units serving plants by pollenating, distributing seeds and spores, pruning and browsing vegetation, fertilizing, and in the case of humans, propagating, cultivating and irrigating plant life.
      Also, though plants lack the nervous system or brain of animals, plants are intensely aware, responsive to their environments; they communicate, and provide materials, medicine--Life! Plants are obviously elders to respect and the higher intelligence within the biosphere!
      Another assumption that has been challenged of late is the descent of animals from plants. In reality, animal life may have evolved from the kingdom we call the fungi, rather than plants per se. Yup! Both evidence and theory now suggests that animals evolved from fungi that learned how to surround their food with a cell wall and then "digest" the food by absorption.
      Now back to the film discussed above, in which science-fiction so exquisitely and relentlessly speaks of what is quite real here on Earth. Remember the "Tree of Souls" with its gauzy fibers that the Na'vi can connect themselves into to link with the ancestors? Turns out that whole concept is more science than fiction also, as an amazing book called MYCELIUM RUNNING (subtitled "How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World") by Paul Stamets confirms.
      Stamets champions the importance of fungi, of which the familiar mushrooms are only the visible fruiting bodies. The major organism of fungus is the mycelium, those fuzzy white fiber you find under a rock or log in forest soil, a pale fluff mostly underground that is vital to the health of living soil and forests worldwide. It's not so obvious, still we totally depend on the mycelium.
      According to Stamets the mycelium is Nature's Internet--a crucial element of the living web. So back to that wondrous Tree of Souls . . . it's all a lot to digest, isn't it?
      Clearly an ecosexual is the only thing to be!
(BTW please check out Annie's site too: )

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Bright Side Of Devastating Loss

Before I moved from Colorado to Texas to live with Tomas, sometime before 1996 it must have been, I gifted my friend Marilynn with a painting I had made of Long's Peak. In fact, that particular painting had been commissioned years before that time by my parents as a gift for my grandmother, who had lived in Estes Park for some years. That particular mountain presides as a majestic presence over the entire valley that the Native Americans called "The Circle."
      I recall that my parents asked that I create a straightforward, simple landscape without any surreal or mind-manifesting elements such as adding a flying whale, a spaceship, or an inter-dimensional portal as I might have done had I been painting purely for myself. Therefore, though the painting came out quite well, I found it relatively uninteresting, however my grandmother loved it! That's what mattered then.

      Late on after my grandmother died, the painting returned to me. One day while Marilynn visited me it must have caught her eye. As yet another fan of that particular mountain which rises 14,256 feet above sea level, she expressed her admiration, so I gave it to her. That was also a long time ago.
      More recently, contacting me on Facebook Marilynn sent some snaps of this image I had totally forgotten. She was nice enough to re-photograph it in better light, then she even decided to have it nicely re-framed with a dark, more effective frame. That pleased me.
      However the whole matter also brought up some bittersweet memories and it proved useful to consider what good came from some far less pleasant experiences . . .
      Twice I've had many years of oil painting stolen. In the first case about 70 or 80 painting, the second time at least 100 or more. The first occasion was when I was a student at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, California, in 1973. I loaded the car full of paintings for a semester-end comprehensive critique, drove down from the Berkeley hills. On the campus I stored them overnight in a storage room that the janitor safely locked for me. Safely? Well, in the morning every one of those paintings was gone.
      I thought I was OK, only I suppose I flipped out. It was like a grief not properly grieved, I guess--within a short time I had a nervous breakdown that I did not then even connect with the loss. Probably I was not thinking clearly at the time! Soon I dropped out of Fine Arts after two years at CCAC.
      Many years later, in 1988 I lived in Estes Park, Colorado, where I had been healing psychologically for 12 years. I'd been painting again like a fiend, for years, and stored most of the work in an attic at the old Elkhorn Lodge where I had an apartment. When I moved to a tiny cabin with my new kitten Taliesin, I asked someone I thought was a friend if I could store most of the painting for a while in her garage. She agreed. A few months later when I moved down to Fort Collins, I returned to Estes to retrieve my paintings . . . my "friend" had moved away from town without letting me know and all those artworks vanished with her.
      This time, instead of a psychological implosion and the series of ego-deaths that followed the first such loss, I simply shifted gears to writing and did no more painting for a long, long time.
      It's not a pity party, this account. The first time, going crazy for a few years humanized me and led to me learning how to take better care of myself. The second major loss inspired me to take up writing full-time, go back to school at CSU, where I finally got a degree.
      Now about 20 years later, I've started painting in oils again and it's a return to a part of me that has been missing . . . and I'm still writing a lot too.
      Something wonderful can come out of anything, I feel this more strongly than ever.
      Plus, as the song says, "Don't look back."

Sunday, April 10, 2011

We Are NOW The Gods Of The Ancient World!

Decades in the past the famous and wonderful science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke said something like: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Of course, this means in relation to the generally primitive awareness of 99% of the population of bipedal primates at any given time. It need not be taken as a cynical judgment to observe that the vast majority of humanity is usually absorbed in a welter of conditioned superstitions and willful ignorance.
      It can be tough to be not only ahead of the crowd, but like some of us living backward in time (consider  Merlin, Aleister Crowley, Robert Anton Wilson, Timothy Leary as examples) as futants, or time-travelers from the genetic potentials for future human possibilities. Now I do not personally claim to be "from the future." However if that was literally true it could explain a lot about me and my life.
     For instance I recently found the following somewhat bizarre bit of poetry in my archives:
     "We are the gods of the ancient world:
       I am Osiris and you are Isis --
       I am David Bowie, you are David Bowie."

      Odd as that bit of poetry may sound to my more mature and clear-headed self at my current years of 57, I know precisely what I meant. Current realities are like science-fiction compared with this world, our civilization and our species of only a few years ago. Of course, 100 years ago, manned flight was a fantastic idea. 50 years ago walking on the moon was still a fantasy. Not much more than 40 years past, on a certain August morning of 1969 Grace Slick gazed out around daybreak over a crown of 1/2 million or so bipedal primates most of whom were mutating rapidly and she said:
      "Good morning people! You have heard the heavy groups, now you will see morning maniac music, believe me. It's a new dawn!"
      The house of cards we call human civilization now collapses at an accelerating pace. The Berlin Wall fell; the Internet has hard-wired the Global Brain to wake up; now its wireless and evolving at an exponential rate. That thing called Spontaneous Evolution is the greatest hope for the planet now, maybe the only hope--something comparable to spontaneous remissions only on a collective evolutionary level for our species.
      How easily we accept as everyday realities the godlike powers that technology hands us as we become cyborgs hooked mentally and functionally into incredible extensions such as iPhones, Kindles, Twitter, and all their ilk.
      I'm all for the wiser use of technology to help save the planet, however what we need even more is to reconnect not with Cyberia (we're already there a lot!) so much as the DNA-mediated reality of our bodies, fully present in the material world now. Nature itself IS the Source.

      As the Egyptian Blue Lotus (actually a water lily called Nymphaea caerulea) prepares to put up its first bud of the year in Paradise Garden, I'm reminded--to the ancients nothing was metaphorical or symbolic as we've disconnected from meanings. To them imagery was literally and filled with vibrant, vital life-force.
      This plant really IS the ancient god Nefertum: Beautiful Young Lord of the Rising Sun!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Are Animals Naturally Buddhists?

My youngest child Willy--like many of us when we were young--likes to look at the world from an upside-down perspective quite often. I rather doubt that he actually imagines the ceiling is the floor, as so many human kids have done before. Still there is something about this perspective that fascinates him, as you can see from the evidence above.
      Every bit as significant about Willy is how he changes my perspectives simply by his lively, talkative, and wonderful presence in my life. His other papa, Tomas, sometimes reminds me that when I'm absorbed in my writing chores,* I may not be playing with Willy enough. Willy's just over a year old, he's the light of my life and he totally deserves to be played with! I try to take breaks and play with him periodically every day. It's as good for me as it is for him!
      In fact, when I fail to do so enough, this kid is inclined to attack me and sometimes he still draws blood. No doubt I deserve it. He's 100% authentic, present, and never gets lost in stories in his mind. That short list in itself is only a few of the ways in which Willy is wise and wonderful.
      Of course, when I mention the wisdom of animals, I'm not talking about what science means by intelligence, sometimes associated with brain size or nervous system complexity, or those silly and often totally misleading tests. Though intelligence may be more amenable to some forms of evaluation, if not measurement . . . wisdom comes from within.
      In humans I'll even say that I feel wisdom comes from the heart. It's not acquired information, as much that passes for intelligence really is. That's often merely the manipulation of knowledge or information.
      Wisdom is the knowing that emerges from within.
      For humans this may be a matter of remembering what we have forgotten that we already know. For animals, it seems they do not forget what really matters. They remain connected with that inner source of knowing. It's more than what we call"instinct," it's genuine presence.
      Animals are not literally Buddhists, of course! They are far too wise to have a religion. However, Willy's other papa and I were having a discussion not long ago and Tomas said, "I think that's where Buddhism really comes from--just watching animals."
      "What do you mean?" I said, intrigued.
      "Well, you know, the story is that Lord Buddha spent a lot of time in the forest before his awakening, a lot of the time alone, except for some animals and plants. If you watch animals, you can see how alert they are to what's going on, how they don't disconnect mentally like humans do."
      "Gosh, I know what you mean! And I've always figured the tree Lord Buddha sat under under had more to do with it than some folks might imagine. If you really listen, trees know what's going on. No doubt that helped him too."
      "Sure," Tomas said. "It's really just about alertness, paying attention. Being present."
      Since then, even when Willy gets wound up, his pupils dilate and he's even a bit dangerous, I have to respect him more than ever. He's phenomenal. He's a lot of fun. Plus he's wise.
      And in a way, he might even be a Buddhist.
* By the way, most of what absorbs me these days is a new draft of Moontusk Book Two: Orchid of Awakening, the sequel to my recently published novel. If you haven't checked out Book One, please take a look! 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Bruce and the Talavera Stallion

A few days ago Tomas and I took a bit of a break from the obsessive focus on our careers. Gotta feed that inner child some fun, or at least get away from any sense of a workaday world that can make life seem at all predictable. (As I mentioned last time, of course in realities, nothing ever IS predictable!)
      With out friend Wayne we got an early start and drove east of Austin to Round Top and Warrington to explore the immense Antiques and Collectibles show that draws folks from all over the country both spring and fall. To be honest, I'm really not much of a shopper--not unless I'm in a bookstore--and I had no idea of what to expect. However this turned out to be a truly amazing experience . . .
      I had imagined some kind of huge parade grounds with hundreds of booths. Instead there are actually areas with hundreds, maybe several thousand booths scattered along both sides of the main highway for miles and miles and stretching through several communities. It's probably something like the Smithsonian--even a steady pace of walking for days could not allow you to see everything!
      There's a remarkably varied selection. "This is not a museum, this junk is for sale!" one sign proclaimed. There are all sorts of antique furnishings, original artworks of every shape, size, and material; collectibles from many eras and places, imports from all sorts of countries and cultures, including Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, African countries, and even stuff from the Grande Ole Empire of Tejas.
      What struck me is the virtually infinite Universe of objects that humans create, from the totally ridiculous and tacky to the genuinely sublime. All of this is stuff that nobody really truly needs, yet obviously many people want a lot of it. Even on a weekday, we pressed through eager, sweaty crowds.
     Nothing struck me as irresistible, though being who I AM I kept being drawn to the pervasive bookshelves of old books. I'm on a sort of informal quest for a nice old illustrated hardcover copy of LOST HORIZON by James Hilton. The book and two film versions are a current obsession, among my many perennial obsessions. That copy still eludes me, only I'm patient on that score.
      Seems I came close and even almost managed to find a Disney tie-in with SNOW WHITE, the very same "Dopey Dwarf" puppet with a rubber head that I had as a boy in Thailand! He got away from me again--oh well. At any rate, Tomas and Wayne, being magickal gardeners, loved the yard art especially.
     Wayne seemed to find it amazing how I can bond with a total stranger in a few minutes. That's my style, I suppose.
      Now let me confess this fascinating photo of me clowning around with a painted fiberglass stallion is not actually from that expedition; rather it's an outtake from the recent visit Tomas and I made for Fort Collins for my mother's 90th B-Day. (You might have guess that based on how over-dressed I AM, as Tejas is already plenty warm this year.) As you can see, I've got no flare for the dramatic. At any rate, that horse, as wonderful as it is, alas it's another doo-dad I can live without. We left it there.
      Only the photo's not a bad souvenir.