Thoughts on publicity. Oh, and, right — planning my time out.

To myself:

One major thing:  Do not underestimate the amount of time the required reading is going to take to read.  I spent about 30 minutes during lunch today and got 12 pages into the reading, whereas 64 are required to be read by Tuesday.  Gah.

I suppose as a corollary to this, do not feel bad about doing the required reading while procrastinating on your art project, because you’re going to have to read it, anyway.

I really wish I had started that reading, sooner.  Now, though, at least — I have an idea of about how long it is going to take me to get through the rest of it.  If I average 12 pages every half hour (24 for a full hour), and I’ve already read 12 out of my 64, that leaves 52 pages.  52/24 ≈ 2.  I should be done in about two hours.  I have to squeeze that in some time between Sunday and Monday (it helps that I have nothing to do on Monday).

Not so bad, eh?  It just feels slow going when — surprise — I am reading an academic text, with constant references to outside sources which I haven’t read.

The other thing that has been on my mind is whether to link this blog with any craft or professional web presence.  We were talking about this in my Creative Process class, last meeting.  I’m already in process of cleaning up my posts on a certain social media site, in preparation for re-entry into the iSchool.  Really, the only reason I am there at all is because of the iSchool.  Prior to being accepted as a Master’s candidate, I really didn’t use social media (as we know it today) at all.

Right now, the only people who can see anything substantive on my Friends list are people I know face-to-face.  This permits a different level of disclosure than I would have if I Friended people I know from Internet classes but have never met face-to-face (as I believe I am expected to).  I just don’t want to have to go through and manually block everyone new from every old post intended for actual “Friends.”

I’ve been giving thought, though, as to whether I want this blog to be potentially openly connected to my actual identity.  There’s only a limited amount of anonymity that is available in a blog like this one (where I’m posting artworks which are already connected back to me by fact of my being their maker), and if I ever became a known artist, my identity would become public, anyway.  But the alternative seems to be living in a hole and not showing or writing anything.  Which, then, means production which never sees the light of day and which cannot make an impact on my society except through the way in which it changes me.

Or, I become another Banksy…

There are drawbacks to letting go of relative anonymity…but there are also drawbacks to starting a professional online identity without the backdrop of my old files, followers, and Web presence.  More than that, though — both art and writing are vehicles for expression, and if I’m afraid to express, I’m not going to get anywhere worth being, using either of them.

I was writing to a friend about this the other night, as well…if you know me in person, you know that I can be a difficult person to get to know intimately.  I’m kind of standoffish and tentative where it comes to personal relationships, and ironically, you stand a better chance of getting to know me through what I write (and through what visual puzzles I make) than you would if I were with you — unless that “being with you” was intense.  Even then, though — I tend to shut down and block others out, a very few people excepted, and I have a relatively low tolerance for being with other people.  This tendency of mine doesn’t mean there’s a fault with anyone else; it just means that my level and easiest routes of engagement are different than usual.

When I was a child, though; I wrote because I felt that through the medium of text, I could express things that at the time, I felt I couldn’t say.  When I started painting, it was because I had things I needed to express for which text was insufficient.  Maybe it’s a kind of social deficiency that leads me to produce writing and art — I have been told that I display autistic tendencies, though not to the point of actually being “autistic.”  Kind of like how most of the population displays psychotic tendencies (that is, the tendency to detach from reality [by doing things like believing in unseen and unproven phenomena] — “psychotic,” does not mean “wanting to kill people,” like many I’ve encountered [incorrectly] believe), but most would not be labeled “psychotic.”

I actually didn’t know about the autism spectrum thing until my parents told me what my doctor didn’t, but then it suddenly made sense why so many autistic people online liked what I wrote.  🙂  Right now, I’ve been told that whether I qualify for a diagnosis or not doesn’t even really matter, because at this point I don’t gain anything (like assistance which I could have gotten as a child), either way.

The thing is, though — I’ve developed in writing and art this far because of the fact that I didn’t feel I could express myself.  Now that I’m fairly well into the Art, I’m finding myself being required to express myself, and getting the repercussions of that.  People are actually seeing what I’m painting, and reading what I’m writing.  With that, comes a lot of power (which I have had a difficult time justifying wielding, in the past — because it is not my desire to have an inadvertent negative impact on my society).

What also comes with that, is a lot of exposure.  This part doesn’t seem to impact me too badly at all, given that I can enter relatively quickly into levels of disclosure which make other people uncomfortable.  But for myself — this is just the way I work.  Yes, I will back off if someone else gets uncomfortable with my sharing, but this just generally lets me know that they probably aren’t a good match to be anything more than an acquaintance to me at this point in time.  As a writer and an artist, I’m concerned with expression; at this stage of my development, I can’t function if I’m worried about what will be too much or too deep to say.

At the same time, I’ve learned that I need time and space to process incoming information, especially if it is on the same level of intensity.  I’m not sure whether it is because I denied myself this in my younger years, or if it is just because my spaces of socialization were toxic (though I lean towards the latter explanation), that led me to have a good amount of negative feedback.  It really wasn’t until I began my first job that I realized that people weren’t just generally cruel.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a lot of this conditioning feeding into my wanting to be anonymous — because people being cruel to me starts at around 9 years old and just keeps persistently going on until I’m about 19 or 20 (after I left my first college, which was rather freshman-heavy on the culture side of things).

Which is:  another reason I’m glad I’m not a kid anymore.

The positive thing is that I know now that most mature adults don’t do things like harass people for whatever reason they can find to do so.  Kids will harass each other out of any excuse they can, but not adults.  Teens will harass adults if they’re in groups and have been conditioned to think it’s OK, but won’t do so alone.  Some adults will be cruel to other adults, but there is just generally something wrong with those people, and they rarely ever actually care about the person they’re harassing, more than picking on someone else to make themselves feel better.  (Does anyone believe these people are actually happy?)  When you work in a service occupation, you kind of get a feel for what is normal and what is not.  What I got was years and years of targeting by immature people, with hardly any input from mature people — until I was about 20.

I have said this before, though not here:  we really do need adult role models in schools so that kids can learn some standards of acceptable behavior (as versus the prison-like free-for-all system that was in place where — and when — I went to school).

From having communicated with people younger than myself, it seems like the social situations in school settings (especially for kids who might be seen as LGBTQIA) have gotten better over the past 10-15 years.  I’m really happy for the newer kids, but at the same time there is, now, a generational divide where some of us went through hell and others of us (beneficiaries of prior activism) can’t imagine being put in a situation like that.

As time goes on, we’ll see where things head.  I have a feeling that politics may influence this, particularly as we’ve got some candidates for office (in the U.S.) who are very clearly bullies.  (Things got worse when Bush II was in office, as compared to the Clinton years.)  And, I suppose, I have a lot more perspective on what’s going on now, than I used to.  The good part is that if I work in Library Science, it’s a pretty accepting field.  So is Art — perhaps more so.  I haven’t given much thought to writing a book recently, but that was the first place I started thinking about having an impact on my society in secret.

And, right now — I haven’t gotten too much negative feedback, here.  Some strange followers, yes, but nothing overtly threatening.  Could it be that people in general are more civil than I give them credit for?

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Classes have restarted, and I finally have time to update

I’m…just feeling a little good right now at having finished an assignment.  Those of you who have been following this blog for a while know that I’m in an Associate’s program in Art.  (I already have a B.A., despite well-meaning people thinking I’m in junior college for the first time when they see me and hear that I’m taking classes at community college.)

I’m actually in my final semester or so, before I go back to iSchool for a Master’s in Library and Information Science.  I want to work in Digital Archives or Digital Curation — or so I think.  I won’t be able to tell until after my classes in Fall.

I’m also at the top of my pay scale in my current position, so I’ll have to do some reshuffling within the next year.  I still haven’t decided whether to jump for a Clerk or Library Assistant position, though the latter would make more sense in regard to my degree aspirations.

So, right now, I’m in three classes…my capstone class is the one which had homework (already).  I’ve been thinking on it at night, trying to start filling out my art journal.  My prof (or all they all “instructors,” actually, in community college?) wanted us to identify two pieces which were representative of our work, and then make something that was the opposite in technique and/or content.  My examples (of “what I do”) can be referenced here and here.  What I did tonight, with my apologies to Kimberly, as it kind of looks like what she does, is here:

IMG_1726-ccr72
What I don’t do.

My issue with my own pieces in the above links is that they tend to be intricate, delicate, and tight.  There’s a lot of planning, not so much freedom, and lots of work, including intense detail work.  The piece on the left, on the other hand, I did within an hour.

Because I like using colors and color relationships in my work, I made this one greyscale.  Because I tend not to be openly spontaneous, I tried to work on something that I didn’t think out too much before beginning.

The white that I used here isn’t actually White Charcoal.  It’s that Rembrandt white soft pastel that I keep talking about (the one that cost $4 for a full stick — I’m still on my first half-stick).  Amazingly enough, it can color almost opaquely over black…

I also hate working with charcoal, pretty much, because it has to be sealed or it gets everywhere (and it’s really messy anyway — I have some ground into my hands right now that I can’t get out), and my experience with White Charcoal is that it fades back and loses its immediacy when it’s sealed with spray fixative.  I’m not sure if it will happen with the Rembrandt soft pastel, but I’ll see.

As regards toxicity, I see warnings about the Rembrandt colors on the Blick website, but no substantiation of the warnings.  The MSDS from Rembrandt says, pretty much, not to worry — even though there are Prop 65 and CL warnings under the individual colors on the vendor site.  The Caution Label seems to apply to colors with Lamp Black in them.  I’m thinking the Prop 65 warning relates to Titanium Dioxide and the CL is possibly-impure Lamp Black, which the website says should be treated as slightly toxic, even though Lamp Black itself, when it’s pure, is safe.

Yeah, I don’t know.  Seems like barrier-cream time…

Anyhow, I went for my charcoals and pastels because they are generally inaccurate media…kind of like my acrylic paints.  I can try for detail — and I may try some more on this one, as I can see from the photo that I can work on this, some more — but the media doesn’t encourage fineness and tightness, the latter are of which are both kind of my strength and my bane.  I tend not to get started on my work because I stress out over it, though I think that really, it may be like dealing with people on the job:  thinking about it is worse than actually doing it.

It might be worth it to try working with this type of pastel in earth tones, later in the semester.  We’re getting into this in Figure Drawing, at my level, though there we’re working with Conté crayon.  I think the colors suggested for Figure Drawing (not just Conté, as there doesn’t seem to be a Yellow Ochre Conté) were Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Indigo, and one other…a more blue-brown tone (in comparison to Burnt Sienna) like Raw Umber.  This parallels my experience in Continuing Drawing, where we got the same basic set — though that time, in Prismacolor NuPastel.

It would cost $16, but it’s a start, and I already have some toned paper to play around with.

I forgot to mention that I ended up spending a lot less on art supplies than I thought I’d have to — about $115, this semester, which isn’t too bad.

I’m also not going to have a lot of time to do much more than make art, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see my posting activity decrease…

…and, my brain just stopped working.  Good night!

Well, we have some success at grounding…

Nothing too deep here, this time.  🙂  Probably, thankfully.

I can say that I had a major role in planning, and a minor role in making, dinner.  I think I seeded and sliced up an avocado for the first time in my life.  🙂  (It was magic when the seed twisted out!)  M told me to cut it up like a mango, so we had little cubes of avocado for the soft tacos (which were my suggestion).  🙂  I also washed and prepared the cilantro, and cut up some raw onion to go inside…and picked out the type of beans and rice to go with.

It was really nice.  I usually don’t cook, though sometimes I help.  I think I’d like to help more, though.  It would be good for me, and good for the people I live with.  D thinks that my help saved us about half an hour of time.  I also mentioned at dinner that when I help cook, not only do I get to taste what I’m cooking (which let me know that the avocado was ripe enough), but there is more food that I like to eat at the meal.  The one thing that maybe I should have done, that I didn’t, is rinse the raw onions so they would be less harsh.

I’m still not up to cooking meat — I should probably learn, but I have a feeling I’ll need a dedicated bottle of hypoallergenic soap for the kitchen sink, and need to cut my nails short and use my nail brush, in order to feel confident in doing that.  (I seriously worry about food-borne illness, which has kept me away from cooking raw meat, for most of my years.  I thought that after I moved out, I would want to be vegetarian because my aversion was that strong — but I have kind of learned at this point that sometimes I really need meat.)  After tonight, I’m thinking that I may want to cut my nails short anyway — while I was peeling the onion, the nail on my index finger kept flipping back.  I don’t know why — maybe it’s nutritional, or something.  I haven’t been eating at my best for a while.

I’ve gotten to the point of realizing that my parents are getting older, and actually may need my help in doing things.  I reminded D twice about things that had slipped his mind at the market, today.  This, and a number of instances within the past month, make me think that when my parents go out to shop, it’s probable that I should go with them to help them remember things that they might at one moment remember, and the next, not.  It also helps to have a person to carry heavy things.  Though both of them are still strong, there have been and will likely be more issues related to heavy lifting.

Granted, I didn’t get up and stay up until about 3 PM (I was basking in the last moments of “don’t have to do anything, lalala,” time), but it was nice to help out.

Tomorrow…I’ll have to go to school.  Two art classes.  I’m pretty ready for this program to be over.  There are now nine people — as versus four — signed up for the Art Lab.  I seriously don’t know what’s happening with that, or if it will be viable at all.  For me, it’s an alternative to Watercolor class that would help me stay out of loan repayments.  I don’t expect Watercolor to be easy.  But, it would allow me to get started on that skill set before I go back to my Master’s program.  (That class, and Modern Art History, were the last two I really wanted to take before heading back to Library School or on to another job.)

Library school…is something I’m still planning.  I feel relatively confident in my aims, though I really won’t be able to tell until after I take the technology-oriented core course this Fall.  I did realize that what I’d been talking about earlier on this blog, with things like — in effect — emulators so we can play video games made for obsolete systems — is Digital Curation, not Digital Archives.  I’m still aiming for Digital Archives, though.  Despite the dull reality of dealing with misbehaving people at an in-person Public Library, Digital Archives does look really interesting, and I think a job utilizing those skills would be an awesome job to have (other than negotiating Digital Rights, which looks irritating).

I spoke with one of my colleagues at work, the other day — who didn’t really give me the idea that being a Library Assistant is where I would like to be for the rest of my life.  It actually makes me think that if that were as high as I could go (and it is, without a Library Science Master’s), I’d probably do something else.  I don’t really enjoy managing people, and he said that this is the majority of what he does while at the Information desk — moreso than helping people find materials.

M suggested that I not be a PI (Permanent Intermittent — a County floater that fills in temporary vacancies), as she says I need someplace stable to work at, and not have to guess at what will be happening every day.  Both the person who I spoke with yesterday and one of my past managers (at the time, both PIs) have encouraged me to be a PI, but I also know one person (a PI) who says “don’t be a PI.”  I’m not entirely sure where he was coming from, with that; though I have noticed that there seems to be some friction between employees who work at one branch all the time, and those who float.  Their experiences would probably differ, depending on what kind of a job they do.

I suppose that it’s good, as well, that I’ll be able to have Financial Aid for the next few years, and not have to worry so much about filling enough hours at work…though the four-to-five hour shifts are really sweet.  (M says that most people get tired and weak at about 4 PM, if they’re working an eight-hour day.)  Right now, it’s a really good thing that I’m earning any kind of money at all, scant though it may be — but, we have multiple adults in the house.  We would need the extra income.

I just feel like my time with my parents is running short.  I need to get this Library School thing into gear if I want to do it at all.  I’ll probably end up having to care for them sooner or later; my sibling wasn’t too hot on the idea of helping.  But, if I work in the tech sector or in a Special Library (I’d been thinking of it), that plus what they earn might be enough to pull us through. They’ve supported me and cared for me, this long; and I do love them, so I think I can at least try to return the care.

Right now, I have three main sources of support:  my parents, and my godmother.  I kind of wonder what my family life will be like in the future, but I guess I can figure that out when I come to it.  It won’t necessarily be bad…just different.

Restarting meditation

Alright, so after I got off the blog, yesterday, I did go and meditate.  I’m not certain how long it lasted, though I’d say in the ballpark of 15 minutes; maybe longer.  What really amazed me is that after I opened my eyes again, I felt more awake and alert than I’ve felt in days.

This shows me that I need to be meditating more.  I was using a basic Body Scan technique that I learned from my HMO — I wasn’t sure anymore that I remembered it, but apparently I remember it well enough.  🙂  I would like to be working on this writing project and on my art without breaking down, so this is a good thing to learn.

And, just as a note to myself for the future:  I didn’t want to do this, because I have a tendency to get bored and think I could be using the time in better ways.  But if I factor in how much more I’m able to get done, and my quality of life while doing it, after the meditation — it’s really more than worth it.  It isn’t even really the same thing as lying down to rest…it’s more refreshing than that.

It wasn’t until late last night that I recalled the fact that when I was really deep into Buddhist study this last time, I could not tolerate it without meditation, which eventually caused me to stop (I was freaking out a bit as to why).  I’m really not sure of the dynamics that are going on here, but meditation seems to build some kind of fortitude against what feels like energy loss or drainage.  In its own right, Buddhist study is really intense for me, especially when I’m reading and getting all kinds of thoughts pinged off in my mind (which sometimes include two or three separate readings of the same passages).

Ah — and that’s one other thing I wanted to note:  Meditation, like the art, and like the writing, is a key, though it seems to be a key into well-being more than anything.

And!  How is it, exactly, that keys are made?  That was the other thought that came to me earlier, which I doubt I’m going to be able to answer in the next five minutes.

Record the feeling?

I’m thinking back to one of my first spirit contacts (that I remember as significant, anyway)…who told me not to worry about names or appearances when I might search for him; instead, feel again what I felt when he was here, and he will be here, again.  I…suppose this has been a long cycle of development, for me?  (What I’m talking about took place nearly 17 years ago — half of my life.)

Because it was so long ago, I’m not sure anymore that I do remember that feeling.  However — I have an archive of the stories I made with him in them, from when I was a kid.  🙂  It’s possible that reading those over again, may help.  And yes, I can see that my history of involvement with the arts and humanities has tended to scare me more than it probably should.  🙂  It sure would have been nice to have a writing professor and an interfaith mentor, when I was in high school…

Went too far in that direction, did I?

Apologies for not being on top of the comments, recently.  Mentally, I’ve not been in a great place for the last couple of days — it’s been hard to get up and active.  I have been thinking that (in addition to having too much unstructured time and being on two sedating medications and dealing with a clinically significant lack of motivation), this may be related to the writing project/philosophical foundation for artwork, which I’ve been working on for the last several posts.  My reasoning?

I’ve gone back to an old pattern of writing being the major thing I’m doing outside of sleeping, and my writing and thought have started to revolve around spirituality.  Dreams and sleep are…for me, a bit closer to death than being awake and doing things.  What I’m trying to say is that I feel like I’m becoming ungrounded — by which I mean that practicality and basic things which need to be done and Earth life in general have been falling behind me.  Historically, I know that I need to watch out for this, because when I get too deeply into spirituality and dreams, it can often concomitantly detach me from a desire to remain embodied (not that I think the alternative is a great idea, because childhood was a pain, and I don’t want to go through it again unnecessarily; plus, I’d be giving up my current job post as a Creator).  ;P

Heh — maybe I do need to remind myself of my current role; and maybe it isn’t the best thing to think of the art as something to help me stay alive.  It’s a reason to stay alive.  I’ve just got to balance the spiritual foundation of my work with the grounding process of my actual work.

And I don’t want to meditate, but maybe I should.

It’s a good thing for me that school is about to start up again.  I keep having the experience of not knowing what to do when I don’t have work or deadlines, and then not being certain whether not-deciding what to do and just hanging out in bed is actually “resting” or just “being lazy.”  The latter is something that a lot of people with my diagnosis get accused of, because of, as stated earlier, a clinical lack of motivation.  (It’s called a “negative symptom” — something that isn’t there, that should be there, as contrasted with a “positive symptom” — something that is there that shouldn’t be.  To the best of my knowledge, it’s caused by a neurotransmitter imbalance.  Medications help with the worst of it [most of my troubles stem from negative and mood-related symptoms], but they do not eliminate all symptoms.)

It’s actually really similar to the time right after I came home from my first University, though in practicality, that was three months of triage.

And, actually — now that I think of it — I may have been forcing my way through this when I decided what my major was, and writing was the only common denominator of all areas of my life.

Yeah, right now, I’m thinking:  meditation, then art.  Maybe restart the dryer, first.  🙂

Avoid the doors to Hell. Even if you have the keys.

(…Unless, for some reason, you actually like Hell.)

This was the message that came to me last night as I found myself triggered into a negative space while thinking about a known issue at one of my past job sites.

I didn’t have too much time to write, today.  Most of today has been spent with a good friend, which was nice.  I tried to note-take in my new journal in visual format.  I’m not…entirely sure how much I can recover, there, of what I was actually thinking.

I did recall the original symbolism of the Keys, not to mention the symbolism of the different Realms I’ve read of in Buddhist texts.

The Keys were, originally, a set of visions I’d had over a number of years, which centered around the interaction of sunlight, air, clear water, and depth.  The dragon who showed up in one of my art sessions…I still haven’t quite puzzled out why he is a dragon (perhaps research will clarify, as I shouldn’t assume it’s a mundane issue)…but I know that the ocean itself symbolized something like the mind.

The surface, in this metaphor, is the conscious mind and the deeper one dives, the closer one gets to the unconscious, until we reach the depth where light can no longer penetrate.  The pearls he is after are on the ocean floor, so of course, we end up starting out from a point in the conscious mind, and go deeper and deeper into the subconscious, until we can retrieve a pearl — a vision or insight.  Contained within the pearl is something (a “Key”) that grants entry into a psychic “room” which delivers a certain emotional/mental state, along with psychic content which is now accessible (though often enough, correlated by the brain with the deeper, primary felt sense).

As I’m thinking about this, I realize that there are at least four elements represented in this vision:  Water, Earth (the pearl), Fire (sunlight), and Air.  I’m trying to remember the Daoist correspondences to the pentagram…Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water.  I don’t know either system (the major Western or Eastern alchemical systems) well enough to know what may lie hidden in this context, but I suppose it is something to research.  Especially so, in light of the visions I’ve already had.

And, I know; don’t summon Elementals, because they tend to be unbalanced, hence, dangerous.  Yes, I know.  🙂

Ah — I remember the other point I was going to write about, now that I re-read that passage mentioning Realms.

Given a division between Matter and Energy, I can postulate a division between the phenomenal world (Matter) and the energetic world (Energy).  Apologies for not being together enough at this late hour to clarify what I mean by “energetic.”  It’s a project for the future, though, definitely.

The phenomenal world is easy enough to navigate…most of us can sense it with our bodies.  The energetic world, though…and maybe I should call it the “mental” world…I am not sure many of us have been taught how to navigate.

I’m recalling a book that I read quite a long time ago, called, A Concise Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism, by John Powers.  I’m fairly certain that I first became acquainted with the idea of “realms,” with my research into this book (one of the few from the Library that I’ve read cover-to-cover) and others focusing on the same cultural group.

From what I’ve read, which I’m sure is somewhat simplified, there are Six Lower Realms in, at least, Tibetan Buddhism (called “Lamaism” in some library catalogs).  Other schools of Buddhism bring in multitudinous Heavens (in Pure Land thought, each liberated individual creates their own Heaven…the implications of which, are interesting enough to note for the future), but these are not addressed in the above book.

Unless I’m mistaken, and I’m getting this from Joseph Campbell’s lecture series, The Power of Myth, each Realm is identified with a klesha, or “Poison”.  (Alternately, “klesha” may mean “Defilement,” but if so, I’m uncertain of the difference between a Defilement and a Poison.)

Each Poison is something that leads one into a state of duhkha, or unease/suffering.  Each Poison is also identified with a World, or one of the Six Lower Realms.  Granted that in other schools, each Realm may have multitudes of sub-levels, as in the Narakas (Hells) of Japanese thought…not to get off topic.  The Six Lower Realms, and their Poisons, are:

  • Hell:  Anger/Aversion
  • World of the Hungry Ghosts:  Greed
  • World of the Animals:  Ignorance
  • The Human World:  Desire/Attachment
  • World of the Asuras (Jealous Gods):  Jealousy
  • World of the Gods:  Pride

What is interesting, on one point, is the idea that both Buddhas and Bodhisattvas can and do move between these worlds.  But what is meant by this?

I’ve taken it to mean, for example, that if one moves into a state where they are entirely filled with rage, they are then literally inhabiting the Hell realm — even though they’re still, physically (Phenomenologically), in the same place.  Mentally (Energetically), they aren’t.  This, then, makes an interesting (though somewhat problematic) intersection with my idea of Keys.

Over the years, I’ve learned that I have a lot more choice in what I allow myself to feel than most people would admit to.  We tend to say “this person made me angry,” rather than “I became angry at that person.”  There’s a difference in that the first phrasing identifies the speaker as the passive recipient and victim of (their own) anger.  The second method of phrasing takes full ownership of the fact that the other person did not cause one’s anger; rather, anger is there, and once that’s recognized, then we can investigate what to do about it — rather than blaming someone else for how we feel, and possibly attacking them for it (in one way or another).

For me a Key is, in some sense, what breaks me from normal reality and puts me into an altered space.  I’m trying to think of an impersonal, non-specific example of this, though, and it’s not quite making it.  It’s very possible that Keys are personal and idiosyncratic.

But, for example, when a person is walking down the street and hears someone wolf-whistle at her; if she has been the victim of sexual violence, this may bring back a multitude of feelings that she doesn’t want to feel.  In this case, that wolf-whistle is a Key to a mental state which she may very well enter into before she can detect and interrupt the process.  This is, however, also a case of psychological triggering — which is only the most obvious way that Keys and Rooms work.  At the beginning of this post, I said, “avoid the doors to Hell.  Even if you have the keys.”

In my thought, Hell can be many different things.  As someone who has been harassed for most of their life over gender and sexuality issues, I think it’s relatively easy for me to slip back into a chain reaction of disempowerment (and subsequently, pain and rage at my own loss of control) when things like this happen.  That, then, makes it easy for me to slip back into “you make me feel bad,” and lash out, which still might not make me feel any more empowered (“don’t make me hurt you”), and has negative effects for me (not to mention the other person).

There are a lot of Hells.  But just because you have received the key, doesn’t mean you have to enter the room.  It’s taken me a long time to realize that no one else really has the power to make me angry.  I make me angry.  There are few situations with multiple actors and only one interpretation of events.  This means that there may be some choice as to how we explain what is happening, to ourselves (though I could probably go off on another post, about this).

Once I recognize my anger, I then have the choice to let things go or move forward on a more productive path (whereas before, I might just gear up to fight, because I’m blaming someone else for how I feel, and don’t recognize that I have a choice to feel differently).

And it is really disempowering to wonder to oneself, “is this dude going to get me fired?”  I have a choice over my own actions; no one can make me do anything.  My emotions and my actions are my responsibility; blaming them on someone else is not productive.  On the other hand, if I do haul off and harm somebody, I also need to take full responsibility for that — which may seem a bit more evil to the general populace.

In a different sense, art can certainly be a key to entering an altered state.  The most obvious example I have of this is in line with the above, though, so I won’t use that one.

How about Water Lilies by Monet?  I have seen a panel of one of this series of paintings close up, and really, close up it doesn’t look that great.  But from afar, if you can take in all the colors and motion and light, you can feel transported, not in body, but in mind, to someplace else.  Someplace that you might like to be, even though obviously after a while of looking at a painting, we get our fill and look someplace else.

But the point is that the painting acted as a Key to a Room that had some kind of psychic content that …transported us to a place that, on first viewing, maybe we had never been before.  Complicated, of course, by the fact that our selected iteration of Water Lilies isn’t going to inspire the same feeling or content in all of us.

And, right…it’s late, and I’m tired.  I can’t believe I’ve stayed up this long, already.  I’ll get ready for bed, while I still can…

Souls?

I might as well continue on with this train of thought, right?  I mean, I already started writing about it, and everything.

When I was about 23, I was looking around online for people talking about what I’d, by that time, only heard about in my own family, and/or — possibly, it was a decade ago — either the Library at my then-University, or my World Religions class (if I’d taken it by that point; I can’t remember the year offhand).

The terms pantheism and panentheism, I came across while looking for sites on paranormal phenomena.  Pantheism (All-God-Belief) basically states that the Universe itself is Divine, but also implies that there is no God beyond the natural Universe.  Panentheism (All-In-God-Belief) states that the Universe is Divine, but that there may be something more to it than we can comprehend.  At least, those are my understandings.  Last time I checked, there weren’t that many books out on the latter topic, either — except for two highly academic works focused around Christianity, which were too dense for me to take in at the time.

Aside from an ill-advised pledge to a friend’s church at a wedding when I was about 4 years old (promptly forgotten except for the hell-and-brimstone threat which I thought would curse all of us unless I did so and everyone I loved did so as well), a fairly frightening time with a Children’s Bible (same friend), and celebration of the holidays (which I’m sure the big two of which — Xmas and Easter — it’s known are co-optations of pagan holidays [Yule and Ostara]), I haven’t really been Christian.  And, actually, given my experience, it isn’t surprising.

So, when I started looking for information to explain what I was going through, I wasn’t really looking for Christian sites or anything remotely having to do with Christianity (my experiences later in life via religious conservatives preaching hate against everyone who could have been mistaken for gay [with nearly no resistance or contest from any church I could see except Glide Memorial], drove me away from that possibility).

So, after I returned from my first University with a pretty severe illness (which the widespread hate was instrumental in triggering), there was some kind of exchange between myself and M where she told me to figure out who or what “God” was to me.  At that time, I was fairly mixed up, because I had a good Deity figure who I called God, but I was getting that figure confused with the Christian “God,” which (based on my experiences with his followers), I really did not like.

It took me at least three years of trying to consciously separate the two, before I was able to refer to my own Divinity as the Divine, and not have the Christian element being called in because of that deity’s title.  I’ve kind of grown out of it by now, but usually when you see me say God, it means my personal God (more than likely, not yours); when you see me say “God,” in quotations, it usually means the Abrahamic god (which I don’t capitalize as an honorific, because that god isn’t my god).  I’m more likely to say Deity or God/dess, though, than God; because of the loaded state of the latter term.

Doesn’t mean I have anything against people who follow any of the Abrahamic religions; I just don’t follow any of those religions.  It’s like calling myself a woman — it confuses and hurts me more than it helps, but that doesn’t mean being a woman is in any way objectively bad in itself.  I’m just trying to make subjective sense out of my life, and maintain my own boundaries.

Anyhow — I relate all of this because, when I was younger, the site that I found really spoke to me in some manner was a Spiritualist sect somewhere in New England…it was so long ago, though, that I’m pretty sure the page is either gone or has changed hands.  Doubtless, if it even still exists, the content has changed.

The significance of this is that it did start me off on a kind of psychic bent in my explorations.  It also let me know the only face of the Christian God that I connect with — a Universal Spirit.  When I use the term Spirit, I’m referring to a Spirit of Life, which in my mind is directly responsible for my (and everyone else’s) ability to be self-aware.

I have my own thoughts on the Council of Nicaea (which started Catholic doctrine, including the doctrine of the Trinity), but I really don’t have enough information yet to make any kind of informed claim about it.

I’ve learned from the leg of the journey that finding that one (small) Spiritualist website spurred off in me, but I wouldn’t at this point consider myself confidently “psychic” to the point of selling my skill to anyone, or showing off anywhere.  So, I guess it could be like the time in self-defense class when the sensei told us not to tell anyone we practiced, because then we would get people challenging us and wanting us to prove ourselves — which was antithetical to the reasoning behind taking self-defense!

Particularly, since I’ve really settled in with this last medication, I’ve been having less mental noise and variation than usual; plus, more control over my own mental state.

I’m fairly certain that brain chemistry does have something to do with psychic sensitivity, and may account for some having intuition come more easily to them than it does to others.  Having lived with a brain which was overtly ill to the point that I couldn’t care for myself, and one which is mostly well-adjusted, the difference is apparent.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this is one of those “Sacred Madness” things (to the brink of death and back), only I’ve had outside help in getting it in hand.  I do kind of wonder what would have happened if I’d been in a society where there were shamanic practitioners who could have helped me (as versus psychiatrists to medicate me into a more normal brain activity pattern and teach me better how to think), though I’m sure it would have been much harder.

Anyhow!  I started out thinking about this idea of “souls,” right?  Do souls exist, does a lack of soul exist, is this even the right question to be asking to get a productive response…

When I was working my way through my upper-division credits at University (my second University), I often would take time to go to the Religion/Spirituality/Parapsychology/Occult section, browse, and do some reading.  (I’m really not sure that these topics were all in the same place, but I did seek out these books when I had extra time in between classes.)  I recall doing a lot of reading on Buddhism, because one of my aunts is Buddhist, in the Pure Land tradition in my country (she doesn’t mention it at all, though) — and I figured, why not learn more about my family and roots?

So, first two books on Buddhism down, and I’m thinking to myself, “it can’t be this bad.  There must be cultural issues (e.g. exoticization) in translating the concepts.”  Today, I am thinking that those books which I read first, which were all older texts…were not on contemporary Buddhism.  Nor were they on any complex kind of Buddhism.  When I look around at most books on Buddhism today, just about all of them start out with the story of Buddha’s “enlightenment”…quotes because we don’t really know what that means or if his ascent into nirvana from parinirvana happened, or if his enlightenment is or will be the same thing as your or my enlightenment…

At this point, a bit over a decade in time has passed between now and the time I first started researching Buddhism.  I do get weary of the Buddhism 101 books…though I suppose they are so popular because how are you going to learn about the more refined doctrines if you don’t know the basic foundations of all of the Vehicles…

…but once you do know the basic information, it isn’t so easy to net all of the dogma and trash it so that you can get to working on yourself.

I mention Buddhism because it is a key element of Buddhism that everyone does descend from the same source and that underneath everything, all of the natures of all of the beings in all of the realms are the same:  “Buddha-nature.”  (Quotes, because I hate this term and hate to use it, but then as people-who-might-be-Buddhists go, I’m not one who jives well with doctrines of metta or karma at this point.)  Because all our differences are at the (supposed) end (of samsara) immaterial, it is said that there is no essential self.  Kind of like I mentioned, in the last post — we’re at core, all the same.

I’m not entirely sure I buy into this, though, as it is admitted that something does carry on from one life into the next, though in strictest definition, this is just the net effect of past actions (karma).  This gives one the sense that they were other beings in the past, but it actually wasn’t them in the past, apparently — it was someone else who gave rise to one.  Therefore, the actor is mortal, even though the person they birth will think that they used to be said actor.

Given that I haven’t found a definition of karma that I can accept or fully grasp yet, and given that it differs from its original version in Hindu belief…(it seems to have morphed within Buddhism)…this kind of throws a wrench into the works of my totally accepting this doctrine, which means I can’t accept the entire system whole cloth.

My own experiences, as well, do not point to the nonexistence of spirits (small “s”; not the same as the Universal Spirit [who is the totality and essence of Life], but a piece or fragment of it with its own energy, potential personality, and volition).

I don’t know enough about any variant of Hindu belief to be able to guess about the specific beliefs in soul, other than the doctrine of atman (personal essence) in what I know about Hindu belief and anatman (no-self) in Buddhism.  So…given that atman exists in astika (orthodox) Hindu beliefs (there are a number of them), it would seem like transmigration or reincarnation of a pre-existent soul would happen between lives.

Given anatman in Buddhist beliefs (which, by the way, happen to be nastika [unorthodox] in reference to the Vedas — that is, they do not consider the Vedas [one body of Hindu holy texts] true), we have rebirth, but not reincarnation.  Death of the personal self is final in Buddhism, although something of one does continue on.  Whether that would be the same as one, in some way other than history and karmic transfer, is unknown.  It’s possible that when the texts say that death is final, they are referring to death of the personality and not of the essence (Buddha-nature) carried within one.

Gah.  Okay, I’m tired.

If anyone wants to help me hash this out, I’m open; but right now I’m going to bed.  🙂