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Road Trip part 1



Spiral Dance

Three Essays
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Fragments towards an autobiography

© Arthur Durkee 2006

When I was 16, I wrote a short story about kick the can for my English creative writing class. My teacher sent it in, and I won a national writing award for that story. The whole school made sort of a big deal of it, as did my family.

The emotional fallout from that experience was very strange: it was an important experience (thought not the first) of being exceptional, of standing out from the pack, and being singled out for honors. It brought to the foreground all my fears of being Different and Other and Odd. I was getting constantly encouraged to continue to write, even by my family, but even then I was an avant-garde experimental writer, and some of the looks people gave me when reading my writings made me afraid to share them.

I started to downplay my natural gifts and abilities, to hide my light under a bushel, and pretend to be normal and like everybody else; I'm still dealing with that, even now. My biggest fear back then was fear of rejection; I already felt alienated and apart from most people, and I wanted more than anything to be accepted and loved. Now, I wish I'd been more courageous and just continued to write and be myself; my life might have been very different. I sometimes wonder if I've never been financially solvent as an adult because I had a fear of success rooted in this experience of being too visible to the rest of the world, of being Too Much Noticed. I'm still dealing with that. (And quite ready for financial success to manifest, too, thank you very much!)

So, if I reveal more of myself now, it's a necessary spiritual exercise: to reveal myself as honestly and completely as I can. To be as completely certain in my gifts and talents as my English teacher had encouraged me to be, back then.

Let's do it in stages, though. These are fragments, written randomly and out of order. I can only write these as they surface, not in some artificial linear-narrative order.

Getting beat up every day in fifth grade, walking home from school, because I had to walk home past the house of two brother bullies, one my grade, the other a grade above, because I was a soft boy, wore glasses, was studious and smart and a teacher's pet, and I didn't know how to fight back. I had suppressed that memory till my Mom reminded me of by telling me how worried she'd been about me, that year, every afternoon. I came with home breathless from running, with bruises, torn clothes, broken glasses, lots of times, and would barely talk about it, is what she said.

That same year, I guess to avoid the bullies, I learned to cut through the fields behind the subdivision, and through the wild areas, and the nature center, and those were some of my earliest experiences of spending long days in nature, communing with the local spirits and the animals and trees. I was already into geology by then, too, although I didn't get serious about it till 9th grade.

I grew up in a foreign country, India, because my father was a medical doctor sponsored by the Lutheran mission there: he ran a hospital, taught the nurses, did surgery, etc. An administrator as well as the chief doctor. It was very Albert Schweitzer, in some ways, and I was a little boy all the nurses and servants would play with.

Growing up overseas was great fun as a kid, and murderous when I got back "home" to the USA. It was cold all the time, compared to tropical India (we were in the South). I had nothing in common with my age-mates, no cultural sharings, had never seen TV or listened to pop music on the radio (although my parents gave me a strong early education in classical and opera). i was incredibly smart and incredibly shy, and the bullying on me began from almost my first day in First Grade, and lasted all the way through to Tenth Grade.

My family tried to help, but when you're backed into a corner, you have to fight back sometimes. When I was 12, I lashed out at a boy who had been picking on me all day. I didn't hurt him, but I scared myself. He grabbed me after school and tied to the playground pole, but I wouldn't fight back, and two of my friends came and yelled and rescued me, and walked me home. (Gods, I still feel ashamed to ask for help, sometimes, even when I need to.) That was when I first learned that I had a serious temper, and could explode if provoked. I was so afraid of hurting someone else that I refused to fight back, and would rather be beat up then fight. When i was 14, I got so frustrated and angry that I punched my fist through my bedroom wall. That led to a dozen years of total shutdown. I punched my fist through a wall again when i was 28, and scared myself all over again, and then I started to do some serious anger managemnet training. One of the things that saved my ass at that time was studying martial arts, especially Ki Aikido. I learned a lot from that art, especially about energy direction and blending. I still practice things I learned in Aikido daily, although, being nomadic now, I haven't been to a dojo in a few years. Things like centering breathing, etc.

My biggest fears were of being discovered as Different, smart, unusual, gifted (I was a gifted child muscial prodigy, according to some, who didn't go the usual route, partly as I had bad stage-fright at that age, and my parents didn't insist). I was afraid of standing out from the crowd. Some of that was sexuality, but even more of it was from being smarter than almost every one I knew. (I was asked to join Mensa later in life, but found them to be dry, stodgy, boring, competitive, and just generally icky people to be around.) I've won awards on all levels for writing, for music compositions, for photography, for digital art—practically every contest I enter, I win something—not every time, but at least more often than not—but I'm still lazy and shy about entering. I guess I need a fucking agent, so I can keep making the art and not have to do the fucking marketing! That shit's hard to do, for me.

And even more dangerous to reveal to anyone, a lesson I learned very very young, was my spiritual life. Like the time I was 5 years old, out by the servants' washing stations near the house in India, during the highest heat of the day when everyone was taking the Indian equivalent of siestas, and I was supposed to be sleeping too, but I snuck out of the house, went over to the washing stations where the stones were still wet and cold, and took off all my clothes and sat there in the hot sunlight just absorbing it, and I saw angels. Or spirits, or whatever you want to call them. We talked back and forth. I knew even then that I couldn't tell anyone about it. Or at age 8, when I was with two friends in the nature pond center near my elementary school, and we were walking and talking, and suddenly I looked up, and there was this redwing blackbird sitting on a tree-branch right over my head, singing away merrily, and I looked at the redwing and we merged, became one, i was in its thoughts looking down at myself, feeling the bird's hunger and outrage at these two-leggeds violating its space. My two friends had to shake my shoulder to snap me out of the trance, and they stayed close to me the rest of the afternoon, in case I slipped off again. (I've had some good friends, who took care of me a lot, now that I think back about it. Infinite gratitudes.) Or the time I was playing around sexually with one of the other neighbor boys when I was 14, we had slipped out on a hot summer afternoon and were playing naked games, not real sex, just fumbling little-boy stuff, in the row-houses being constructed back across the fields behind my house, fields that had been empty till that year, so it had been like living in the countryside, and as we played we each other, even though it was only fumbling around curiousity and dumb stuff like that, we started to merge and I could feel what he was feeling, and when I touched his skin I could feel it myself, like I was on fire. (I've been writing a long poem about this summer of awakening for awhile now. I find it amusing that the four longest poems I've ever written have all been poems about sex and sexuality, and they're all pretty explicit and erotic.) Or a dozen other similar experiences.

And then there was the time when I got lifted up, up, into the White Light, while sitting on my bed in my parent's house, putting my shoes on after showering, being there to visit, in my 30s, and I was lifted into the White Light, and I don't know how long I stayed there, it was an eternity, even though it was probably only 30 seconds by the clock time. I can still remember what that Communion felt like. It just happened. I didn't prepare for it, although I had been meditating regularly by then, for almost a decade. It was just something that opened up in me, and I was lifted up. I've never felt at home, here, since I returned. Frankly, this world is a lot less real to me, most of the time, than that one; I can feel myself approaching that world again, as time goes by, and I've learned to move more lightly on this world. I have to sometimes remind myself to Pay Attention, when out and about.

Just like I've never felt completely at home in the USA, since we came back from India. I've always felt like a misfit, a freak, a weirdo–all names I've been called again and again—and don't forget queer, faggot, sissy, etc. Although I'm not really that sissy, I'm pretty much what they call masculine or butch, and always was. I can even use power tools! But I wouldn't fight back, so that made me a sissy. Nowadays, though, when the Dragon looks out through my eyes, people back away, and don't fuck with me. So I still generally don't have to fight, for which I'm grateful. Having lived in California for over a year now, I can honestly say, for the first time in my life, I don't feel like a total misfit, because there are MUCH weirder people than me there!

And then there was the time I was doing a beginning class in kundalini yoga, and I had to stop after only five minutes and sit there and just breathe and ground myself, because I could feel the snake energy rising so quickly up through my body that I was about to discorporate and leave this body, and die for real. It really freaked me out, and I never tried yoga again.

BTW, I'm like a triple-earth sign in my astrological chart. I'm incredibly grounded, even when I don't feel like I am. You should see my power conduits. So if anyone else got the same energetic shit that I regularly get, I suppose, they really would fly off out of their bodies and not come back.

And then there was when the Black Dragon first appeared to me. That's a huge story in tiself, how we merged and became one, how this gigantic force from the stars came into my life, and how we became One Being over the process of a couple of years, and how that was also at the same time as the first of my two spontaneous shamanic initiations, which were guided by the Spirits. And the Dragon isn't a totem—I have severalo of those, too—the Dragon is who I am. Identity, not identification.

Drugs? Fucking who needs drugs?

I did LSD a total of four times, in my thirties, just to see what all the hoopla was all about, and all I learned was that nothing happened, NOTHING, that I had not already experienced several times, under my own power, without drugs. NONE of it was new—it was just intense, and lasted for 14 hours, and I couldn't turn it off when I wanted to.

When I was 7 or 8, having started with piano lessons as soon as we got back from India, when I was 6 going on 7, I was part of my first piano recital. My piano teacher was a tough old woman who had had polio as a kid, and used a walker. Her husband was a master at making and playing the bones. He played with everyone, as an amateur, and it folk music circles, was world-famous. Later on, in my 20s, I got to be friends with both them, as an adult, after not having seen them for some years. I even housesat at their place one summer, and the biggest tornado came through Ann Arbor that afternoon, knocking out the power to most of the city; cleaning out their fridge afterwards was NO fun. I remember that when the tornado passed close by, the sound was tremendously loud, and the sky turned a purple and green bruised color you never want to see, even on someone's body who deserved to be beaten. A huge raccoon ran for shelter across the lawn in the pelting rain and wind, and under some bushes. It was over in seconds, then because the power was out, total and utter frightening silence. The temperature stayed in the steamy 90s all week. The city was reduced to survival measures, but it also brought out the nieghborly best in some people, the way such things bring out both the best and the worst in us.

Anyway, when I did my first piano recital, I was praised to the skies for my talent. I was actually a little scared by that. I am, to this day, not able to think of us myself as anything but ordinary. All the things I take for granted as normal to me, I have to be reminded that not everyone else can do. I tend to assume I'm nothing, and they're pretending they can't read minds like I can. It's a mental blind spot that I admit to, and that I know is there, but it's innate, and keeps tripping me up. The applause at the recital was scary rather than uplifting, for me. I realized many years later that I had already developed some energetic hypersensitivities, and I was being overstimulated and overwhelmed by it all. (cf. Elaine Aron, "The Highly Sensitive Person") But I loved the music. I was never a great performer on piano, because I hated to practice, and only wanted to play. But my piano time had to be devoted to practicing, so I didn't like it as much. Where I was a prodigy was as a composer, writing music in various notebooks from that time on, as soon as I learned where the notes were on the piano relative to the page. I also had a very good treble voice, and eventually became an alto soloist, until my voice changed. My adult voice is nothing special, but I've musical ability out the wazoo, so I use every ounce of voice that I have to the best of my trained ability. I can make the first tenor section of any male chorus sound much better than before, just by micro-tuning it.

The hypersensitivity thing, without getting into the psychic stuff per se, was "switched on" at a very early age, maybe at birth. For most sensitives, it often kicks in at puberty, with the hormonal surge. Most poltergeists are caused by adolescents of any gender whose raging hormones are causing power surges that get expressed as telekinetic type stuff; it often goes away once they are devirginized. (As it were.) When I was 15, I had to walk 9 miles home through a blizzard, carrying a heavy load, because I had stayed late after school for a school play project, and no one came to pick me up for a ride, and I couldn't call. So I trudged home, alternating between fury and despair, exhaustion and steady plodding fueled by rage. When I got to within a block of my house, it was still snowing, it was after dinnertime, and I was filled with cold rage. I glared at a power junction box where a streetlight was hung, on the next block, and the instant I glared at it, it exploded in a huge shower of blue electric sparks, like a movie special effect, and all the lights went off in the next block. Not my house, though. Shaken, I finised the trudge home and never told anyone what had happened. They were apologetic for not picking me up, but I was beyond caring at that point, and went to bed early, exhausted.

When I was 14, it was a hot sweaty summer. I went around without a shirt most of the time, day or night, and got deeply tanned that year. In my bedroom, for years, I could affect my radio reception simply by moving around the room. I had to figure out how to position the antenna so that when I got up from my desk I wouldn't make the radio go all staticy. Actually, I can still do that to radios and TVs. One night, the air was thick with pregnant heat the way it gets just before a thunderstorm rolls through, and the air felt very electrically charged. There was a storm on the way, and it made the house very edgy. My parents were a little snapppish, and I was too. I got up from where I'd been reading, intending to go upstairs and hide in my room, and I was mad as I turned the corner to go up the stairs. I glared at the lightbulb at the top of the stairs, and it blew up with a big noise and puff of smoke. Nothing damaged, but it shook me up again.

And then there is the Sacred Heart.

This happened to in August 2005, when I went camping for 4 days in Joshua Tree National Monument, because I needed some desert solitude time, and I needed to be in the high heat, and bake the cold out of my body. I am not affiliated with any organized religion, so I hesitate even mentioning the Sacred Heart as such, because most of the religions carry a lot of baggage around their terminologies. But I don't know what else to call it. The Tibetan Buddhists call it the Awakened Heart, bodhichitta, and a couple of other Sanskrit terms. I think it's all one, the opening of the heart chakra, whatever label we give to it because of the cultures we were raised in.

This happened in August 2005, as I said:

I can feel my heart chakra open, these days. It is open and red, as though bleeding. It is the sacred heart, the wounded heart, the compassionate heart. I was present at that woman’s heat exhaustion collapse yesterday, and was wandering around the room, sending her energy, doing invisible healing, staying back from the action, sending her light and Reiki, while on the surface not being engaged. It was obvious she had lots of attention; I didn’t need to be blatant. I am more than happy to be invisible on these occasions. I could feel the energy in my crown chakra, and my heart chakra, the sacred, bleeding heart. You don’t have to do anything more than be present. The love and compassion flows through you, and through them, equally, and you don’t have to DO anything. The energy knows what to do. You don’t have to personalize it, name it, label it, direct it, “control” it, be in charge of it, or do anything more than be present and witness.

Yet the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the Virgin Mary, kept coming into my mind; the profound mystical truth of the embodiment of the sacred heart is what matters here—no matter who embodies it, no matter where or when—it the participation in the salving of the world’s wounds that counts; not anything doctrinal or sectarian, or religious. I am embarrassed to even admit that I felt I was suddenly embodied of this most esoteric yet most clichéd image from Catholicism; yet, there it was. The Sacred Heart opens for everyone. The Christ, the Cosmic Christ, never wanted us to worship him, or deify him, or turn him into the iconic image that he is: he wanted us to become LIKE him. The Virgin Mary, the Buddha, Rumi, Rilke, Christ in the Gospel of Thomas: they all say it, again and again: you must become what we became, for yourself. And you CAN. You have the potential to become what we were; don’t hesitate. This is every human being’s birthright: to become One with the Divine. Our birthright is mysticism, and mysticism is the most practical thing, the most pragmatic way of life imaginable. It’s only "esoteric" until you have the experiences the great mystics talk about, in your own life, your own embodied practice, your own random encounters with others wherein you just act without thinking about it, wherein you just do what needs to be, then move on. I’ll never see this person again, and I had no real interaction with anyone involved; I was just present. I hadn’t even really thought about yesterday’s encounter with the sacred heart till this morning, sitting in the tent, in the growing light, waiting for the sun to touch these stones and make them bleed.

I can claim nothing for myself, here. It wasn’t ME that was in operation. It was the absence of ME, if you will, that allowed all this to happen. It seems risky to even write about it.

Then when I left the Park, I spent three days in Los Angeles with friends before driving up the coastal highway towards San Francisco. I wrote, at that time:

What is going on with my Sacred Heart chakra?

I can feel the flames. I can feel the burning. It is not heartburn, an aptly named if frequently misused diagnosis: the usual attempt to ascribe a physical cause to an emotional effect. Upset? Oh, he just ate some bad clams. He’ll better with time and an antacid. The same way we try to paste over depression with tranquilizers, ignoring the important difference between personality-ego depression and genuine, spiritual depression. My dreams last night were intense, vivid, laced with the rich colors, silk brocades, and exotic lighting exemplified by the bedspread on this bed; very sensual, but also violent. Raw. Tempestuous. I come away with mostly a feeling of unsettledness. Things are only beginning, not reaching an ending, or a conclusion. This is the start of the trail, not the ending. I am anxious, as usual, because of my fear of unknown outcomes, of having no security, no stability: the same fears I always have when my bank account approaches zero. But I know now it’s not really fears of having no money per se; it’s deeper, about being able to be independent (you think you’ve grown up, but this infantile becoming adolescent stuff still tracks you), about being self-sufficient, about being, what—able to stand on my own two feet.

Everywhere in the rocks of the desert, I sought out and was rewarded with places the light of the sky shone through: portals, doors, windows, circles, triangles, holes in the rounded shapes of the weathering stone, places the sun and air could flow through. It is no coincidence that I open the book to a quote from Meister Eckhart, who is talking about the same thing:

Perfectly to have given up one’s own [self] is to have merged with God, and then anyone who will touch the man must first touch God, for he is wholly within God and God is around him, as my cap is around my head, and to touch me one must first touch my clothing.


Therefore if a heart is to be ready for him, it must be emptied out to nothingness, the condition of its maximum capacity. So, too, a disinterested [non-attached] heart, reduced to nothingness, is the optimum, the condition of maximum sensitivity.

I am still learning to incorporate this into my life. It's an amazing blessing, but it's also a secret in most settings. (The Powers That Be say, yes, I can share it here.)

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