On Homelessness #1

It’s not going to be too long/In fact I do not really know why I still bother doing this/I think this blog has seen its end long ago/It has played out its purpose/But maybe it still has a few inches to go/Consider these little jottings to be the final breaths of a blog that has already remained alive way too long/Just like clothes, people, musical genres and jobs- I think I have out grown the machinations that this blog currently struggles to create/This blog meaning=me.

But today/On a break from work/I was sitting in the sun/I was enjoying the feeling of the afternoon sunlight heating up the bare areas of my arms/And then a homeless man walked past/He didn’t look at me/Probably because I wasn’t smoking/After the contrails of his unshowered scent had left my olfactory awareness, I began wondering/ Are there people who love life so much, who love the experience of being alive so deeply, that they need very little else, if anything, to feel wealthy?

……sorry, just had to go after a fly/I wanted to kill it but I could not bring myself to do it/Now I just need to learn to live with it.

What was I saying?

Oh yeah…

Are there people who are so in love with experience of physical and emotional sensations, that they need very little of anything else to feel fulfilled?///////////Maybe for these individuals all of the things that us “normal” individuals hold to be so important (things like status, money, occupation, money, possessions) are actually transgressions against the free time that they need to relish in the experience of being alive/After all how many of us work at jobs that keep us from experiencing the late morning and afternoon sun?

I don’t know but I want to believe that these individuals exist/That behind the homeless person lives a soul who is in touch with something much deeper, a person who knows something that all of us “normal” folk choose to forget and then maybe remember on the weekends/Who knows.

But man (and woman) can not live on air alone/This man, me, needs more than air/I can appreciate lazy afternoons spent in the sun but I also need good meals, decent looking clothes, a house of my own and enough money to buy the things I need and want (within reason).

Why am I doing this?

Why am I writing things down?

Why am I going to publish this when I feel like its no good?

Because I do not care/It is just writing here/I am just writing/Just turning what is in my mind inside out and sharing it with you because I said I would/I am ready for a slight buzz/Dinner/Maybe a film/Where is the gin?

Goodnight.

 

Starting Tomorrow…

Right now…in this moment…before i go on my morning walk…i want to make a vow…i realize that it is a vow that i may not keep…i also realize that it is a vow that no one else cares about…but fuck it…i want to make it anyways…i want to vow to write one blog post…just one…flaws and all…every single day for the next week…starting tomorrow, of course…

The Practice Of Looking Out A Window

img_0527 How much time during the course of your day do you feel is spent distracting yourself from yourself? I certainly am not bad at this. Through reading, over-thinking, eating, watching films, going places, listening to music and working I have found several enjoyable ways of distracting myself from myself. If left unchecked, I can actually be a master of self-distraction.

I have found that there is a very simple way to find out just how much you distract yourself from yourself. All you need to do is sit down and look out a window.

Notice the colors, the light, the shadows, the life going on outside and the the sounds. See if you can keep your attention on these things for longer than a minute or two. If you are someone who spends a lot of time distracting yourself from yourself, you might notice that after a minute or two just looking out a window will start to feel very hard. You might notice a strong impulse to do something else. To pick up your cell phone (or what I prefer to can a mini-computer), to find that book that you are reading and keep reading, to clean the room you are sitting in, to go do the dishes, to return phone calls and/or check your emails. You might also notice that you will be thinking about your parents, a friend, your kids, your failures, your regrets, your amobitions and all kinds of other things. As soon as you start to feel like you are coming back into yourself you will probably feel like doing something else. But see if you can just sit there and begin to find what T.S. Elliot called “the still point of the turning world.”

The writer Franz Kafka once wrote, “You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen. Simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” In our frenetic and highly competitive era where everyone is busy pushing back their fears, worries, uncertainties, loneliness and self doubts- few of us have probably experienced the world rolling at our feet in ecstasy for more than a few minutes every month or so. Despite all we do, we seem unable to align our doing and our being with our deepest yearnings for peace and contentment.

After five minutes of just sitting and looking out a window the urge to get up and do something might feel over-powering. After all there is so much to get done! Children to attend to, future events to be worried about, floors to be cleaned, plants to be watered, deadlines to meet, money to be earned and spent. But see if you can just keep yourself where you are at. See if you can just stay with your life as it is in the moment- looking out a window and watching. You might notice a kind of calm coming over you and if you are lucky you will begin to realize that our lives work is here in this moment. It is in noticing and paying attention to the sounds that we hear, the things that we see, our inhalation and exhalation, our body sitting on a couch.

Sure there is work to be done in the world. But like the writer Philip Simmons wrote, “Our work denies our doom.” We often keep ourselves distracted from ourselves because this allows us to distract ourselves from the fundamental fact of life- everything is impermanent, including you and everyone you love. This fear is at the root of what keeps us running but the irony is that the more we allow ourselves to be connected with the impermanence of all things, the more we are able to open our hearts and feel a deeper sense of connection to the world around and within us. The more we try and push away the impermanence, the more disconnected and distracted we become. And at some point, either today or in fifty years, we all will get a first hand experience of just how impermanent everything is.

So put away your phone, close the book that you are reading, stop planning or immersing yourself in your emotional drama. Just sit down on your couch or chair and look out a window. Spend ten or fifteen or thirty minutes doing this. Do it every single day if you can. Don’t do anything. Just watch. Become present with your life as it is. Sit with it. Silently. Don’t think too much about any one thing. See what happens once you find your still point.

A Writer’s Daily Routines

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Wake up 7:30am
Ten minute walking meditation
Make coffee
Write for several hours
Go for walk (if time permits)
Get dressed
Go to work
Think about drinking gin
Come home from work
Drink gin (or not)
Eat dinner
Do dishes
Go on-line
Watch film or read
Fall asleep reading and listening to music

(Or)

Wake up 8:00am
Walk for one hour
Eat/coffee
Write
Get dressed
Meditate
Go to work
Meditate
Come home from work
Read or go on-line
Go to bed

(Or)

Wake up 8:30am
Ten minute meditation
Walk for hour
Coffee/food
Sit in garden
Read
Avoid writing
Clean house
Avoid writing some more
Get dressed
Go to work
Come home
Drink Gin
Eat dinner
Watch movie or read
Get in bed and watch late night with David Letterman

(Or)

Wake up 8:00am
Walk and listen to a podcast
Drink coffee/eat
Read
Water the garden
Clean house
Sit and stare out window
Get dressed
Go to bookstore
Go to work
Come home from work
Drink gin (or not)
Eat dinner
Do dishes
Listen to music
Watch television

(Or)

Wake up 7:30am
Meditate
Drink coffee
Read
Avoid writing (because I dislike writing so much on these days)
Go to work
Go out for dinner
Drink gin
Come home
Watch television or listen to records
Fall asleep watching David Letterman

(Or)

Wake up 9:00am
Drink coffee
Read
Hang out
Listen to music
Read various things on-line
Get dressed
Go to work
Come home from work
Drink gin
Surf around on-line again
Listen to music
Get in bed and read
Fun sex with wife
Fall asleep

(Or)

Wake up at 8:00am
Drink coffee
Write for several hours
Walk for an hour
Get dressed
Meditate
Go to work
Come home
Drink gin (or not)
Read
Go to bed
Hopefully sex with wife
Fall asleep watching David Letterman

(Or)

Wake up whenever
Drink coffee
Vaporize cannabis
Do whatever I want for the entire day and night (zero obligations)
Get in bed
Fall asleep, holding my wife, with television on (or off)

The Tramp (or Watching TV In Bed)

A middle aged, clean shaven, blonde haired man with weather lines indented on his face, came to my door this morning. Knock, knock. I was still supine in bed, watching television like I do on most Sunday mornings. Before I heard the knock I was thinking about all the evils of television. I was wondering if the people who were always trying to sell the viewer something felt shame in their private lives. I was also thinking how everyone on television, with slight variations, looks the same. Television truly is a Pavlovian box. Knock, knock. I looked at my wife and asked her who the hell that could be. Knocking on our door this early on Sunday morning? Really?

My wife and I argued for a moment about who was getting up and since I was the one with clothes on, that person was me. My body is tight and old in the mornings, so I walked to the front door without the same urgency I felt. I had trouble adjusting my eyes and my hips were sore from a week spent sitting at work. Thousands of thoughts pushed each other around in my head. I was angry that I was being put through this.

He was wearing a gray suit (with a tie) and had a backpack on. His suit looked as if it had been rolled through dirt before he put it on. There were what looked like cigarette marks on the sleeves. He had a hardback book under his arm. The opposite of perfection is eccentricity and this character standing on my front doorstep seemed to be the personification of what it looks like to be an eccentric. When he reached out to shake my hand, I was hesitant. His hands were dirty and I was afraid of catching something and getting sick.

I’m a tramp, he said.
Ok, I was perplexed.
Do you know what a tramp is?
Not really.
Do you know what a wayfarer is?
Not this early in the morning, I replied while holding on to my door incase he tried to push his way in.
Well, I’m a wanderer. My home is what you see and I walk, with little concern for where I end up. I started out in Norway and am now here. I will end up back in Norway at some point.
Ok, I thought and curiously nodded my head.
Anyways, I was walking around your neighborhood and was struck by your beautiful house.
Thank you, I said.
Yes, sure, it is beautiful, such a nice garden in the front. I also love the colors of your house. Looks like you spend a lot of time caring for your home.
Thank you, I replied. Where the hell was he going with all of this? When was he going to ask for money? Does he realize there is a no solicitation law here? Should I tell him you can’t just go up to people’s houses and knock on their doors?
Your neighborhoods are so much different than the ones we have in Norway. Here it is like a ghost town, like no one lives in these homes. That is why I noticed your home. Seems like there is still some life here. I notice that American suburbs are a very frozen kind of thing. At least that is what I feel like when looking at most of the homes. But I did not feel frozen when I looked at your house. It was unexpected.
I was not sure how to respond. I didn’t want to engage. I just wanted for my bed, my naked wife and my tv. And then I was caught off guard.
Do you feel free?
Excuse me?
Free, just curious if you feel free?
Why?
Well, you have a nice home and America is the land of the free (he chuckled), so do you feel free?
Do I feel free?
Yes!
Look man, I appreciate your compliments about my home but I’m tired and I don’t feel like really getting into this. I work a lot all week and Sunday is my morning to just chill out so if you don’t mind I need to end this conversation right now.
Oh, well I’m sorry young man, I did not mean to be a bother. I was just walking past and as I was looking at your home I wanted to ask you this question. In Norway we are raised to think that Americans are free but I don’t see freedom in the faces of your people. No one will even really talk to me about it. But that is a good enough answer I suppose. I apologize for bothering you young man. Back to bed you go!

And just like that, the self-described tramp walked away. I watched as his large backpack swung up and down on his back. It was almost as if he was skipping. He looked back over his shoulder at me and smiled. I shut and locked the front door and slowly made my way back into bed.

Someone trying to sell you something? My wife was looking at her iPhone as she asked me this.
Yeah, just someone trying to sell something. I didn’t want to get into it.
I wrapped my arm around her shoulders and pulled her naked body in close to me.

On television some balding white man, in a nicely pressed blue suit was talking to a panel of other white men and one black man all wearing wrinkle free suits with ties. They were talking about the latest military campaign in the Middle East and how important it is to do whatever is necessary to protect American’s freedom at home.

Never That Cool Again

In high school I was as cool as it gets. Sun glasses, stylish haircut, hip attitude, cigarettes, a full flask in the backseat of my GTI and a continually erect penis. I owed the space that I inhabited. I was the one who knew everything about the most alternative music to listen to. The cool kids consulted with me. I ran with the top shelf crew. I was so cool that I was almost famous. Teachers were more interested In me than I was in them. Girls and a few guys heads always followed me as I walked passed. I was healthy, angry, nice and untamable. I smiled at the less cool and isolated no one. My coolness gave me a kind of diplomatic immunity that I used to help liberate the less fortunate. I had my whole life in front of me. Nothing came between me and the pursuit of my dreams (except my fathers pessimism).

Twenty five years later and I would like to think that I’m still cool for a 43 year old guy. I’m no where near as cool a I once was though. A belly, a mortgage, a professional career, a meditation practice and the aging process all make coolness a state of being that is not so easy to attain. I don’t know if it is responsibility that gets in the way of coolness or a gradual loss of interest in one’s reflection in the mirror. When a young person has dreams of rock and roll accomplishments, coolness is often a preliminary stage. Coolness is letting others know about the inner creative genius they are yet to see. It’s an outer display of an inner belief in one’s self. Once the dreams have lost their grip- so does coolness.

Most people will never be as cool, as famous, as obsessed over and as filled with unattainable aspirations as they are in high school. For this reason- a lot of people see high school as the greatest time in their lives. Especially if they were one of the cool kids. And
after all, such a small percentage of those cool kids gets to grow up and be Keith Richards, Tom Waits or Kanye West. Most cool adults get told that they are refusing to grow up. Cool adults often hang on to coolness in exchange for chronic feelings of failure. And the rest decide to grow up, embrace responsibility and the daily grind and save whatever is left of their coolness for the weekends.

The adult who is able to preserve their coolness and still earn a decent income is the true hero in a world that demands that we leave our coolness at almost every front door before we enter (that’s why I always take the back door if possible).

Love At The Bottom Of A Well

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“My lifetime dream is to be sitting at the bottom of a well.” –Haruki Murakami

Down the street from where I live there is an empty irrigation well, with nothing but an old wooden ladder reaching far, far down into it. The ladder leads all the way down into the bottom of the well and as many times as I had followed the ladder with my eyes to the bottom, I never had the courage to step down into it. I approached the well with the same kind of fear and apprehension that a person might when approaching a potentially intimate relationship or an airplane. Every time I pulled my head over the edge and looked downwards into the well, it was as if a gravitational force was pushing me in the opposite direction. I often felt upset with myself for feeling afraid to do the very thing that I knew I needed to do most- sit at the bottom of the well.

Life seems to have a rhythm all of its own making. Undoubtedly things happen in a non-quantifiable way. Those who try to quantify life’s rhythms, tend to lose a certain quality of magic and spontaneity. It’s a Faustian bargain I suppose. I have never been one to believe in metaphysical explanations for phenomena, but I do acknowledge a fundamental and uncontrollable rhythm that is always pulsating. We can hear it if we are willing to just stop and listen. Sometimes this rhythm creates the most mind-blowing sounds, other times the rhythm causes us such pain and suffering that all we can do to protect ourselves is plug our ears. Why it was that I was suddenly compelled to walk into the well that summer afternoon, I will never know or try to explain. All I know for certain is that as I looked down into the bottom of the well (for the hundredth plus time), I felt a complete absence of fear. Without hesitation, I draped one leg over the side of the well and put my foot on the first step of the ladder. Everything else seemed to happen on its own.

For a few months before prior to that afternoon, I had not been feeling well. My spirits were low and I was apprehensive about so many things. I felt like I was coming down with the flu but never really manifesting any visible flu-like symptoms. There was anger present but my anger had no specific object to release itself upon so I slipped into a subtle but always present depression. I felt physically fragile and knowing that I no longer possessed the invincibility and reduced odds that my youth afforded me, I was acutely aware of the impermanence of all things. When reflecting upon my own life and everyone and everything in it, I felt sad. In my sadness I was desperate to figure out away to make everyone last forever, and the best way I had found thus far was to push everyone away. The moment that I draped my right leg over the edge of the well, the negatively charged chemicals that seemed to be turning my thoughts against me, disappeared.

Step by careful step, I proceeded to walk down the ladder- further into the darkness. The ladder made strange, hollow, grunting sounds. Only an object that was really old could produce such sounds. I knew that what I was doing was not a dream, because as I climbed down the ladder the splintered wood pushing into the skin on my hands caused me to clench my jaw. I have always struggled with a form of claustrophobia that has always gotten in the way of my freedom to roam. I was glad to notice that as I climbed down the ladder I felt no shortness of breath, no tightness in my chest, no sweat on my palms and zero frightening thoughts in my head. I was on an adventure. The first really exciting adventure I had been on since I was an anxiety free kid.

When I put my foot on the bottom of the well, I heard what sounded like the crushing of little pebbles into sand. The same sound was made as I placed my other foot on the ground. The sound echoed off the concrete walls and caused my skin to vibrate in tune with the rhythm. I released my grip from the ladder’s wooden handles and felt an absence of pain in my normally tension-filled finger joints. The bottom of the well felt so uncomfortably cold that I contemplated climbing back up the ladder and returning home quickly to grab one of my winter coats. Even though there was an absence of detectable light at the bottom of the wall, I was still able to see a few feet in front of me. I noticed liquid slowly dripping out from the cracks in concrete wall, oozing down the wall until it disappeared before touching the ground. For a moment I tried to figure out how the liquid could evaporate so fast. I assumed that maybe it was because of the sharp cold, but deeper down I knew there was no logical explanation for what I was observing.

My superstitious nature prevented me from going beneath the ladder. I kept myself positioned on one side of the well. I looked around with curiosity and interest. I checked to see if my feet were actually on the ground and when I realized they were I felt a victorious kind of feeling. It was the same kind of feeling that I imagine a person would feel after they accomplished something they never imagined they could. I let out a loud and enthusiastic “yes!” Finally, I had made it down to the bottom of the well. As much as I often doubted it, at that moment I knew for a fact that I was experiencing happiness. Yes, happiness. I knew it because of the large smile on my face. I could feel the edges of my smile poking me in the eyes. I was beyond the fear that had hobbled me for so long.

As I looked up at the top of the well, I could see a small, tubular ray of light hanging out above me. The ladder that I climbed down seemed to become smaller and smaller the further up it went. My smile was causing my mouth to open and as I looked up I could taste the light. I know that it makes no sense to attribute a taste to light, but ever since that moment I have always been able to taste light. If I try hard enough- I can smell it. As I looked up at the small circular patch of light above me, I was again perplexed by the absence of fear. I was alone, in a small-contained foreign space. If anything happened to the ladder, I could potentially be trapped forever. There was no help to be found anywhere. But still I felt calm. The kind of peace that in my punk days I would have pointed my middle finger at. I could have cared less about anything going wrong. I was at the bottom of the well and that was all that mattered.

I exhaled a deep breath and felt chilled dust settling on my hair and face. My smile started to adjust itself accordingly as I slowly squatted down onto the ground. I put both palms of my hands down onto the ground and then lifted myself into a four-legged position. I don’t know why but I started to laugh a little. I investigated the ground with my eyes and hands. How long had these pebbles I was sifting through been down here on the ground? When was the last time another human being was down here? I saw no footprints and nothing that resembled the imperfections that occur upon human contact. It seemed as if I was the only person in the world. Claustrophobic me, a discoverer of an entirely new world. How cool was that? I didn’t care that the threads in my $159.00 pants were being ripped away by the small pebbles on the ground. No one discovers a new land, without getting a rip in their pants.

I will never be able to represent accurately with words, what happened next. If I was able to compose music, a song might better describe what took place. I am not a very spiritual or religious man so I don’t attribute my experience to anything supernatural. It was what it was. I’m ok with the mystery.

I sat down on the ground in a kind of tangled lotus posture, with the side of my left shoe resting upon the inside of my right thigh. My right foot was being compressed into the ground by my left leg. My spine was attentively upright as I rested the palms of my hands on the top of my thighs. I closed my eyes and began listening to the sounds of my breath moving in and out through my congested nose. I noticed the sensation of microscopic vibrations, in perfect tune with the rhythms of my breathing. I was not trying to explain to myself what was going on. I was present. Not one step ahead. Not one step behind. For once there was an absence of madness in my mind. I was no longer a slave to thinking about all the things that need to get done and all the things I didn’t like. I was letting my ego slip away. Time disappeared and as a result, so did I.

—- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —-

I’m not sure how long I was gone for. Could have been a few minutes, could have been hours. With my eyes still closed (I did not want to open them yet) I realized that my hand was holding what had to be my heart. It felt like the frog that I had dissected in junior high school, except this was palpitating. I was not afraid or freaked out (as you would think you would be if you realized you were holding your heart in your hands). I was just enjoying the peculiar sensations without any need to know how it got there or to validate its presence with my own eyes. I felt a cold, lactose like liquid dripping on my hand and assumed it was blood (which, strangely was not there when I opened my eyes). I can’t remember the last time I cried but in that moment, tears were streaming down my face and onto my chest. I wish I could use another word to describe my experience but the word love fits perfectly with what I felt. There was an abundance of love coming out of this pulsating muscle that I held in the palm of my hand. The feeling was upsettingly bliss-filled. Even with my eyes closed I could see all the pulsating light waves that were illuminating the bottom of the well. If I had been around another person earlier that day I would have been certain that they managed to slip LSD into something I consumed. But just like most days, I had been alone.

It is not like me to feel like this. As I type this account now I am finding it difficult to find the right words to describe the experience. As I sat there, I knew for certain that what I was holding in the palm of my hands was not just a heart, but also the physical manifestation of love. I had so much love in me towards everything in my life. My dogs, my birds, my wife, my family, my teachers, my enemies, the world. A stream of thankfulness was pouring forth from the center of my chest where once there had been so much constriction and heaviness. Everyone who ever caused me hurt, I thanked. I thanked all the people I could think of. Everyone. Instead of the Oscar for best screenplay in my hand, I held my heart high in the air and thanked, and thanked, and thanked. What a liberating feeling it was, even though within a few short hours the feeling would be gone.

Occasionally I wonder, if in those few moments I was able to somehow heal my heart from the harmful effects of all my anger and fear. I’d like to hope I did. I have heard neurobiologists talk about how the heart has neurotransmitters that are stronger than the ones in the brain. When a person feels love the heart is able to flood the body with these feel good neurotransmitters, which in turn has a healing effect upon our entire organism. Even though I did not see it, I like to think that it was the neurotransmitters exuding out of my heart that illuminated the bottom of the well. Who would have thought that on that afternoon, at the bottom of a discarded irrigation well in the middle of a lower-middle class neighborhood in suburban Los Angeles County, a middle-aged man would be conducting a symphony of love and neurotransmitters with his heart in the palm of his hand. That’s got to be worth something.

The moment I opened my eyes, I knew it was time to go. I looked down at my hand. My heart was not there. I was perplexed since I did not doubt that I was holding my actual heart in my hand. My hand was resting flat on my chest just above my heart, which was safe behind ribs, tissue, skin and my white t-shirt. I smiled and laughed a little as I tried to comprehend what the hell just happened. Maybe I imagined everything. But it all felt too real. There was no way this was all a creation of my imagination. No way.

I looked around at the walls and noticed that all the liquid that had been dripping was also gone. Not a drop was anywhere to be found. Was there ever any liquid there in the first place? To say I was perplexed would be an understatement. It was not as easy as I will make it sound here, but I lifted myself off the ground and back on to my two feet. I bent over and dusted off all the dirt from my pants. As I put my aching feet and hands on to the steps of the wooden ladder and looked up towards the daylight (it seemed to be almost dusk), I prepared myself for my ascent back up the wooden ladder. One final time I looked around the bottom of the well and said goodbye to no one. Then I began taking step after step up the old ladder. The more I stepped up the ladder, the more vibrant and excited I felt. I had not felt this way in years and climbed the ladder with the energy of a teenager. Mid-way through my climb I realized I had completely forgotten about how cold it was at the bottom of the well. That was strange, since it was the kind of cold you would find on the inside of a glacier. I looked back up at the daylight, which was not much further away, and continued to climb towards the opening.

I returned to the well a few days later to see if I might still have the courage to climb back down and sit at the bottom of the well again, but the ladder was gone.

The Anxious Therapist

images-1 In a world where a nine-year-old girl accidentally shoots her instructor in the head with an uzi, one human being publicly beheads another and where the “terror” alert in the UK has been raised to severe- I suppose the problem of the anxious therapist is not such an important cultural issue. But the anxious therapist is a kind of conundrum that is a stark commentary upon the times in which we are living.

The psychotherapist is often perceived by the general public as being a professional person who is the pillar of mental health, wisdom and neutrality. A kind of modern-day Socrates. The therapist plays into this persona because it is a luxury (and for some a curse) that their profession affords them. The position they hold comes with a kind of enlightened status, even though most of us know deep down this is rarely ever the case. The therapist is symbolic of a wide-spread misrepresentation that puts into question all of  our perceptual abilities. If we perceive the therapist as someone or something they are not, what does that say about the state of our own minds? After all if we really were able to be accurate in our perception of the therapist, we may no longer elect to pay them for their time. And then who would objectively help us through the struggles that haunt our souls?

The anxious therapist is a threat to the entire sanctity and effectiveness of the healing potential of psychotherapy. I am not telling you anything that the anxious therapist does not already know deep within themselves. They represent everything which is false about the claims that they make. At least this is what we may think at first glance, but as we go deeper into the conundrum of the anxious therapist maybe we will find the opposite to be true.

During a session in the anxious therapist’s office, the client and the anxious therapist sit across from each other. The anxious therapist sits in a reclining chair and the client on a couch or in a chair. As the client talks to the anxious therapist about whatever issue they are dealing with, the anxious therapist is struggling to pay attention. To the client, the anxious therapist appears to be deeply listening, but what appears to be true to the client (even though the client may suspect that something is not quite right) is far from the truth.

The truth is that the anxious therapist is trapped in her chair. Her body is doing incredibly strange things to her, which causes her to be fearing that life could slip away from her at any moment. As the client talks, the therapist is stuck in a hypervigilant and panicked negative thought process. She is thinking about ways that she can excuse herself from the room without losing the client and all her credibility. She is using every fiber of her being to remain composed, despite the ominous feeling that within her body their is something terribly wrong and at any second she is going to lose all control. Without moving, the anxious therapist is enduring a kind of arduous inner work out, which causes her palms to sweat, staining her pants with a salty liquid in the areas where she plants her hands. In this very moment, the anxious therapist is working harder than 99% of human beings on earth to not only remain attentive but to also avoid a complete freak out. Even though there is an unlocked door and the anxious therapist is not confined to her chair, the client sitting just across from her causes her to feel painfully stuck.

The phenomena of the anxious therapist is hardly an isolated one. The anxious therapist has been around for as long as the practice of psychotherapy has. Sigmund Freud is the most well-known anxious therapist. He wrote a lot about the various terrors that he struggled with. Freud would often break out into fits of sweating during his psychotherapy sessions, due to the onset of the sudden fear of dying that would come upon him in his sessions. Freud used a plethora of drugs to try to control his anxiety, but besides having his dog besides him during psychotherapy sessions, was not able to find much relief. This resulted in Freud’s life long struggle with depression.

In the field of psychotherapy, a few researchers believe that the phenomena of the anxious therapist is much more wide-spread than is documented. It is only natural that most therapists would not come forward about their struggles with anxiety during sessions with clients. It is embarrassing to admit that during a session with a client the anxious therapist is often struggling with mental health issues much more than her client is. With all the education and training that the anxious therapist has had to go through in order to get to where they are at, publicly admitting their struggle with anxiety threatens to diminish the credibility that keeps them in practice. As a result, most anxious therapists struggle silently through a kind of inner hell from which they see no chance of rescue on the horizon. It is a miserable and unpredictable fate that they have to endure.

But is the anxious therapist really a discredit to the field of psychotherapy? Is the anxious therapist really presenting to his clients as a kind of fraud? Or is the anxious therapist a living example of how a person can struggle through the darkest and most frightening experiences, but still remain calm and composed (for the most part)? After all, in life shit happens and at some point all of us will find ourselves faced with absolute terror. Maybe the anxious therapist is like a shaman because they are silently and energetically imparting the most valuable lesson that a client can learn from psychotherapy: the ability to remain calm and composed in the face of absolute fear.

Personally, as a therapist myself, I believe that the anxious therapist is a kind of hero. In a situation where most people would run to an emergency room or doctor and need to take a Valium or something stronger in order to feel some sense of safety and relief, the anxious therapist silently wrestles with immense fear and physical discomfort while remaining calm enough to continue to engage with her clients without giving much notice (other than the sweat spots on his pants) that something is terribly wrong. This is a skill or ability that even some of the most disciplined meditators struggle to posses.

Most of us are way behind on the current scientific and psychological research into the neurological explanations for anxiety. The scientifically validated explanation for the development of anxiety disorder is that it goes back to the individual’s parents (or primary care-givers) and the psychological and emotional environment that their parents raised them in. It is well documented that a person is not created with a mental illness (mental illness is not genetically pre-determined). Mental illness is created by the environment that the child grows up in (environment begins to have its effect in the fetal stage of development). From a nuerobiological perspective the root of the crippling anxiety that shows up in the anxious therapist’s life can be directly traced back to how she was parented, but knowing this does not make the anxious therapist’s struggle with anxiety during her sessions (and outside his sessions) any easier. All the anxious therapist can do is take full responsibility for her current situation and practice various techniques that can help her navigate her way through the terrifyingly uncomfortable terrain of anxiety. You can not change the roots of a tree, but you can give a tree water, which will hopefully help its leaves to hang on.

It is well documented that Freud’s anxiety often drove him to the edge of isolation and despair. The isolation and despair that he experienced (which he described as a “disappearance of hope”) caused him to often contemplate suicide as a solution. After the potentially life threatening bout of anxiety, which always leaves the anxious therapist thoroughly exhausted, depleted and depressed for days, the anxious therapist finds herself feeling what some could describe as suicidal. The anxious therapist does not necessarily think about ways to kill herself, but feels hopeless up against the anxiety which she knows will soon reappear. Once the anxiety has run its course, the anxious therapist knows that it is only a matter of time before she has to go through it all over again. She knows this because it has been this way for her entire life.

In the end, the most difficult hurdle for the anxious therapist to get beyond, is to accept that no matter how hard they work on themselves, they are not the model of mental health that their clients and profession raises them up to be. The anxious therapist is surviving with a mental illness, that effects their life just as much (if not more) as whatever issues their clients are struggling through. In a profession that demands that the anxious therapist not publicly admit their personal struggles for fear of losing credibility and the luxury of appearing better off than they really are, the fate of the anxious therapist is to feel terribly alone. They live with an inner contradiction that can not be fully expressed in the work they do in the world. If it is expressed, chances are they will lose a lot of the luxuries their profession affords. What pains the anxious therapist most, is that as much as they are able to help their clients to get well, they seem unable to help themselves. Every time the terrifying anxiety returns during a therapy session, they are reminded of just how ill they still are.

For the anxious therapist there is no greater relief in the world than when they look up at the clock and notice that it is time for the session to end. They have made it through the session without freaking or passing out. What a great relief to have not been exposed! But like all temporary rewards, the price to pay for this feeling of great relief is the terrifying and imprisoning feelings that rise back up when the anxious therapist realizes that her next client is sitting in the waiting room. For fifty minutes she must endure all over again the exhausting fight to remain alive.

 

 

 

On Solitude….

I’m sitting here alone at my desk. I’m in the writing/painting room in the backyard of my house. The house that my wife and I bought came with a detached garage and so my wife and her mom and dad and I, converted half of the garage into an extra room. We built the walls from scratch, did the wiring, put in the window, floor boards and an all glass front door. We painted the walls bright white and left the floor, which is a nice glazed concrete with some paint and oil stains. The window looks out onto a teardrop trailer (guest bedroom) that sits on the grass under and extremely large maple tree. My desk is up against the window, which I often getting distracted by looking out of it.

In this room it’s quiet, other than the small pond with a fountain outside the door and an occasional dog bark. In the far away distance if I try, I can hear the mechanical whooshing sounds of the 10 highway. If you don’t know the 10 highway in LA, then I should let you know that it’s probably one of the busiest highways in the world. I grew up in a country club surrounded by gold and golf courses, but I prefer living on the fringe of a ghetto with a busy highway in the distance. Helps me to feel less alone.

It’s almost 9pm and I’m tired after a long day spent sitting with people and listening to them talk to me about their personal struggles. I know that they are paying me a good amount of money, which they do not have a lot of, just to feel better. To find some freedom from the pain which weighs them so heavily down. I can’t help but get teary eyed just thinking about it. Anyways, I feel its my obligation to give them my best. To really be with them in their pain and with all my effort help to guide them towards a more ease filled place. If I’m taking their hard earned money, I owe them every piece of wisdom, insight, heart and soul that I got.

But now at the end of the day and well into the evening at this point, I’m alone in the solitude of my backyard room. The only company I got are the insects that bump up against my neck trying to get to my blood and the flies, which no matter how hard I try I just can’t live with in domestic harmony. I always pledge to myself that today I will not kill a single fly. I want to respect life in all its manifestations. But once I’m sitting at my desk or reading a book and trying to harness focus, the hyperactive buzzing of the flies drives me to quickly revoke my pledge. I find a book or a magazine and I swat at the flies like Jack Nicholson’s character in the Shinning did when he took an axe to that bathroom door.

I’m not sure I remember how to be entirely quiet and still. I’m trying to ease my way into the solitude even though my thoughts want to distract me in every way. I think about watching a movie, or reading a book, or surfing around on-line, or listening to music. But I really want to just sit here in solitude. Why is it so darn hard just to be alone with myself? Why can’t I just sit here and listen to the sounds and ease my way into the solitude? I feel like I’m always trying to push the solitude back just a bit, but as soon as I am done writing and re-reading this for spelling errors (I don’t really give a fuck about grammar errors, just spelling), I’m going to spend some time just resting in the solitude. Alone with or without my thoughts. First I might look around on-line a little, read a few things, but I will eventually get there. For a few minutes at least.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Almost Fatal Accident At The DMV

I needed to renew my drivers license so I made sure I was dressed nicely. I shaved and was wearing my favorite eyeglasses, since I know the picture on my drivers license is representative of me as a human being to those who do not know me. I realize that potentially, in certain situations, this picture has the potential to make or break me.

I arrived at the DMV early so as not to miss my 10:10 am appointment. Because I am often miserable in the mornings, I stopped first to get a sugary oat scone and a cup of coffee to lift my mood. Once I arrived at the DMV, I began the process of loosing my personalized identity and becoming just another body in a sea of other bodies. A man in a uniform directed me into a line where a bunch of other bodies stood patiently waiting. There were beeping sounds and an Orwellian computerized female voice announcing numbers and letters over the intercom. When a bodies number was called, they launched up from there plastic chairs as if someone had just lit a match under their ass.

I gulped down my large coffee as I stood in line and felt the oat scone that I inhaled cleaning the insides of my colon. I was called up to a counter that said START HERE on it and a black man behind the counter asked me some questions in the same way that he talked to all the other ten thousand bodies he encountered in a day. I stuck my thumb on to some kind of digital scanner and once my identity was verified I was given a peice of paper with F080 on it and told to take a seat until my number was called.

At the DMV it does not matter how cute you are, how cool you are or what you do for a living. The DMV is a living example of how equality is still alive and well in a world that seems to indicate the opposite. Everyone becomes a body that needs to stand in-line and wait it’s fucking turn. Other than the abundance of germs flying around in the DMV I enjoy sitting there, observing the multicultural sea of bodies that come through the place. For us humans the DMV is the cattle processing plant- the place where bodies are identified, updated and registered legit.

As I sat in my plastic chair watching bodies and waiting for my number to be called, I felt the oat scone and coffee mixture make it’s way down into the depths of my stomach. Immediately, I was overcome with an unavoidable urge to shit.

Sometimes there is no reasoning with my bodies need to eliminate whatever is inside. When it has to eliminate it gives me very limited time to find a location to plant my ass. I have had bowl movements in numerous public places where I was just not able to beat the clock. These experiences have been embarrassing and humbling because they make me very aware of the fact that no matter how hard I try, I have zero control over what my body ultimately wants to do.

I knew I was fucked. My stomach demanded release no matter how hard I tried to tell it to wait until I was finished at the DMV. F078 was just called and even though a near fatal accident was about to occur, I did not want to miss my turn. I felt my anal sphincter expanding like gates being opened. As hard as I tried to hold those fucking gates shut, I could not. I shot up out of my seat and was so frantic to poop, that I did not even bother to find out where the restrooms were. I headed for the nearest tree. As I was running through the crowd of bodies I unbuckled and unzipped my bealt and pants. The first thing that vanishes in emergency situations is your concern about what other people think of you.

By the time I got to the tree my pants were ready to be pulled down and the coffee, oat scone and whatever else was in there was already half way out. I pulled my pants down, squatted on the ground and let out a huge sigh of relief as I surrendered to my stomachs demand. A white inter-con security car idled a dozen or so feet away but the officer inside was way too absorbed in his cell phone to notice the body of a well dressed, middle aged gentlemen who was squatting with his pants down behind a tree on DMV property.

As I walked back into the DMV with a lightness and a joy for living that can only be attained after a person has made it through a potentially fatal incident, I heard the computerized female voice on the intercom announce F080 go to window 16. Sometimes everything just works out that way.

The Captive Audience

images-1 There are train tracks close to my home. Trains heading into and away from downtown Los Angeles pass by on these tracks. Often times I feel like these trains are like toddlers, screaming out and making noise with no concern for anyone around them. Such is life in our “modern” hurried up age. You can only imagine how happy I was when a train broke down on the tracks by my home the other day. In my mind it was the trains karma for all the disruptive noise it had made. Fair is fair. But I felt bad for all the passengers inside, who were instantly turned into prisoners. They really had nothing to do with the trains bad karma. They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It was hot outside and I imagined it was probably just as hot, if not hotter, on the inside. Wanting to be of service to all these locked up prisoners, I took a stack of my drawings and paintings from my garage and carried them up to where the train was stopped. Engineers and other train workers were hard at work trying to figure out what was wrong with the train. One at a time, I held up my drawings and paintings so that they faced the innocent prisoners inside and walked each one up and down the entire length of the train. Some people looked at me, smiled and waved in a display of gratitude. Others could give two shits about the art I was exposing them to. They seemed perplexed about what I was doing, almost angry. One disgruntled person even mouthed the words “fuck off” at me. I understood that being held prisoner for something you did not do can bring out the worst in people so I did not take their hostility personally. I continued to walk each one of my paintings and drawings up and down the train. The prisoners were getting a personalized gallery showing of my work. I thought it could be helpful for them. But really I did it for selfish reasons. I figured it was a good opportunity to expose the world to my art, since finally I had a captive audience.

The Pothead

marijuana-dbc04668ba596d1d11bbfdcab899d5bdcf6b293a-s6-c30 (The Pothead. Please pass this along to those whom you think could benefit. Thank you.)

He is not your ordinary pothead. In fact, by looking at him you would never know. He smokes pot most of the time. He consumes pot in the same way a sick person would consume her medicine. He does not mind telling people that when he is smoking pot everything feels better. His life long depression seems to slip away. Suddenly he cares about how he looks and feels an excited vibration towards life just around the area of his heart. Dark clouds part from the sky of his consciousness and light starts to flood in. Have you ever seen what happens to a child who is protein deprived and then receives a good dose of protein? It’s as if they are risen from the dead. He likes to tell this to his doctor who thinks that the daily consumption of pot can lead to lung cancer, schizophrenia, short-term memory loss, amotivational syndrome and intellectual stupor. Every time he visits his doctor (which is less often since he started consuming pot regularly) he reminds himself that he needs to find a new, more enlightened doctor.

His favorite time to take his medicine is in the mornings and again in the evenings. He works at a local bank and it is a job that often depresses him and causes him a great deal of inner conflict (as a progressive, radical, leftist, anarchist he believes that banks and corporations go against his deeper liberationist values). When he takes his medicine in the mornings he is suddenly excited about the day ahead of him, even if it is a ten-hour work day at the bank. After he takes his medicine, life feels good again and anything that he does can be experienced as a pleasurable activity.

He does not smoke to get high, not eighty percent of the time at least. Well this is not true- in the evenings he consumes pot to get high, to be fully immersed in a relaxing cocoon, to be in love again. In the mornings he consumes pot to feel better, to feel excited about life again. Normally in the mornings he is miserable. He has practiced meditation, exercised, done all sorts of things to feel good in the mornings but nothing has worked. After taking his medicine in the mornings he can be seen skipping around, smiling, pleasurably writing, going for long joy filled walks and laughing. It’s as if the depression immediately dissipates and he becomes awake to his life in ways that were not accessible to him when not consuming pot. His girlfriend likes to tell him that when consuming pot he is fun to be around again.

No one at the bank knows that he consumes pot. If they knew that the reason why he was so engaging, exceptional at his job and happy was because he was under the influence of pot, they would judge him. They might even see him as a drug addict (even though most of them take daily anti-depression medication pills), so he keeps his pot smoking to himself.

Certainly when he is not under the influence of pot he feels a higher degree of agitation and depression. He feels less satisfied, as if a certain quality of happiness has abandoned him. The negative side-effects of pot are a small price to pay for what he gains as a result of his consumption of pot. Everything has its trade offs, he believes. There is the yin and yang in every aspect of life. The definition of intelligence is to know and act appropriately when the positive outweighs the negative and vice versa.

This morning when he awoke it was dark and cloudy out. He felt a heaviness in his chest and a blackness in his head. He made himself some coffee and read the paper version of The New York Times. He felt heavier and heavier until finally he decided that it was time to take his medicine. Within ten minutes he was in the shower and then getting dressed up nicely for work. He was smiling and joyfully listening to music. He did some cleaning up around his house before leaving for work. He kissed his cats goodbye. On his drive to work he did not feel the heavy, unsatisfying weight of displeasure that can consume a person when going to a job that they hate. Instead he was present, enjoying the music coming through his car speakers. He felt lucky to have a car.

The pothead consumes pot every night before going to bed. Prior to not consuming pot before bed his sleep was always interrupted by back pains, leg pains, chest pains, breathing problems and the never ending gyrations of a restless mind. Now he sleeps every night through, uninterrupted by anything except the occasional need to pee. He is not troubled by overwhelming dreams or any other discomforts while sleeping. His sleep is the sleep of those who inhabit the realm of weightlessness, boundlessness and have been able to completely let go of all attachments. It is the sleep of a very pleasant nothingness.

When he does not take his medicine his cats drive him crazy. He feels overwhelmed by the mess they make, their financial upkeep cost and the damage to his home that they have done. He often ignores them. After consuming pot, there are few people’s company that he enjoys more than his cats. He loves his cats and wants to play with them. He laughs at the amount of trouble they cause and appreciates their defiance and destructiveness. His cats become his best friends. He is well aware that when he takes his medicine (consuming pot) the whole world becomes like his cats. Everything becomes interesting and enjoyable. He is comfortable with his life and life seems comfortable with him. Activities that often cause him drudgery are fun. He wants to engage with the world. When under the influence of pot he is able to see just how unhappy and heavy the majority of people are (including himself at times), how uninspired they are about their lives.

He is well aware that this is a fundamental part of being a pothead that he needs to accept. When under the influence of pot his consciousness seems to work better. It seems to become re-invigorated and alive. However, the majority of humans that he is around are unable to access these plateau states. They are weighed down by life. This can be alienating for the pothead, but what he has learned is that through being more alive, more invigorated by life, he has a greater capacity to handle the daily suffering of the human race. After all, life involves a great deal of suffering. The person who lives for 40 years and does not experience a great degree of suffering is someone who is exceptionally lucky. They have a high degree of good karma. However, even they too will eventually experience an increase in their levels of suffering as life goes on. For the pothead, the general suffering that seems to be involved in daily living is almost completely eradicated when consuming pot. It would not be a stretch to think of the pothead as someone who has mastered the art of living, once they take their medicine. The pothead is well aware that pot could indeed save the world.

The pothead is thinking that this weekend he will buy a new bike and start going on long and spontaneous bike rides.

What To Write?

imagesI’m sitting here in front of a blank digital page (obviously it is not blank anymore). Empty coffee mug to my left and a small book by Boyd Rice on my right. It is Monday morning, the beginning of a five day work week. How many of us are happy about this? How many of us are resentful that we have to leave behind the weekend’s promise of the freedom to do whatever we want and be whatever we want to be? I don’t fully understand it, but it is always on Monday mornings that I hear more ambulance sirens than at any other time during the week. Maybe the weight of the week ahead is too much to tolerate for certain human physiologies. I should be working on writing the novel that I have been writing for the past few months, but I have lost interest. My mind seems to think that it is no good, a failed word soup with too many different ingredients in it. Instead I have been doing other things, like writing smaller pieces such as this one, reading, painting, cleaning, listening to music, surfing around on the internet, hanging out in the sun. Anything to avoid the drudgery of working on my novel. What’s the point of writing a novel these days anyways? Hasn’t the attention span of humans been cut in half? I sit here staring at a large Mulberry tree through my studio window. I have to leave the comfort of my home and be at work in less than two hours. This is something I have always resented about work- it has a tendency to take me away from where I want to be. Maybe I could do a little reading before I need to get dressed for work? Sit in my chair and listen to the birds conversing with one another in the Mulberry tree? Meditate? I need to do something other than this, since currently I have no idea what to write.

No Trespassing

sgp4_hi  It’s never a good sign when a neighbor puts up a No Trespassing sign in their yard. If you look through my bedroom window, the sign will be looking directly back at you. Yesterday, I was sitting on my bed and I was just staring at the No Trespassing sign thinking about the No Trespassing sign that terrified me as a child. It was nailed to a wood fence and I would pass by it on my walks home from school. The sign terrified me because on it there was this picture of what I thought was a Tres- an all black ape like creatures with no eyes or mouth that was wandering around, somewhere. I thought that the sign was telling these shadow like creatures that they were not allowed to pass by that area, which must of meant they were around. I was always terrified that Tres were hiding in the bushes, under cars, behind houses- just waiting for me. I asked other people about Tres but no one knew what I was talking about. Still today when I look at that No Trespassing sign, a chill runs up and down my spine and arms. My mind seems to still believe that there are Tres around. Under the cars, behind the trees- just waiting.