Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Raw, idiom, 14b: Informal. in the nude; naked: sunbathing in the raw.


Camille Paglia likes to raise some hell, to be sure, and you can usually count on her to push the envelope, sometimes in contrivedly controversial ways. And I don't always agree with her deliberately dramatic hyperbole. But boy, did I love her recent NYT op-ed.

"No Sex Please, We're Middle Class" draws together class, sexuality and bourgeois values in a way I've not seen done before, and it's pretty rad. Check out Paglia's clever threading of psychology, pop culture, biology, and gender. She manages to tie in ribald Shakespeare, old-school Rolling Stones, and a little Lady Gaga in her critique of the desexualizing "careerist technocracy" that she argues is responsible for killing America's libido. Just read even the final blurb:
"Pharmaceutical companies will never find the holy grail of a female Viagra — not in this culture driven and drained by middle-class values. Inhibitions are stubbornly internal. And lust is too fiery to be left to the pharmacist."
Read the whole thing. Intriguing shit. Fiery, fantastic, yes.

No Sex Please, We're Middle Class (NYT)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data.




In order to write about people, you have got actually to stand back quite a distance. I feel much happier having a one-to-one conversation than being in a room full of people — I feel very shy then, and want to get back into the shadows. The shadows are where I think I belong.

~ William Trevor



(It is all about paying attention. Yoga, in other words...)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Raw, adjective: 9. disagreeably damp and chilly, as the weather or air: a raw, foggy day at the beach.


Puccini's Girl of the Golden West tonight!! Deborah Voigt, baby - and a love story set in the California Gold Rush. Anticipated this one for weeks. Need I mention the sweet 4th-row seats (again)??

Don't mind a windy-foggy-cold San Francisco day when it starts with a yogic ass-kicking courtesy of Pradeep, stretches into a long afternoon of books and apples and coffee and old friends, and closes with a bundled-up stroll down the hill to spend the evening with Ms. Voigt herself. Winter-summer in SF. I'll take it.

The Girl of the Golden West (SF Opera)
Opera Review: The Girl of the Golden West (SFGate)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Raw, adjective: 8. brutally harsh or unfair: a raw deal


Noir.
noir (nwär)
adj.

1. Of or relating to the film noir genre.
2. Of or relating to a genre of crime literature featuring tough, cynical characters and bleak settings.
3. Suggestive of danger or violence.

[Short for film noir + Sense 2, short for French roman noir, black novel.]

N's cancer is back.

Ironic, really, this bleakness. It's the longest day of the year, or was, until several hours ago when the resilient sun finally, finally sank below the horizon. We were out in the park Sunday night til 7:15, still light, still warm, no fog, no chill; remarkable, to be sure.

And yet.
So noir.

Because the cancer is back. Because I knew it would be and hadn't the heart to say so. Her hair had just started to come in again, finally. Darker, yes, and coarser this time around; more Mia Farrow and less Marilyn Monroe, no more of the bombshell blonde, ever, perhaps, but older and sager and wiser, more scarred, for sure; but the chemo was over and the life force was surging and she was ready to take on the world once again with that fighting spirit that I'd always known and loved.

And then there they were across the bar again and this time I could see it in their eyes, without even speaking it: the defeat, the dejection, the shock, the weariness, the trying, trying, trying to get it up again for another battle, 18 weeks, chemo again, that puts us at the end of the year, fuck, FUCK, they're supposed to be flying across an ocean to celebrate 30 years and once again, should they go, she'll be wearing someone else's hair.

What the fuck.

Saturday evening. They came straight from the airport, fresh from Pasadena. I knew it immediately; she didn't have to tell me. She just said: FUCK. Under her breath. The angriest whisper. And I wanted to scream FUUUUUCK at the sky. And I couldn't. So I clasped her forearm and bored my eyes into hers and tried to show her how my heart convulsed. She was wrapped up, sweater-clad, not trying, not bothering.

She was weary. He was hovering.

(He doesn't hover. She hates hovering. She doesn't need it.)

They're so desperately in love. It's mind-blowing to watch, really; these nearly-30 years together this January, and still, still, that sexual chemistry that lights sparks from across the room. En fuego. He'll be lost without her.

The knowing that this is how she will die.

2 pea-sized tumors. Taunting the ovaries. FUCK. YOU.

("It's a blessing they're just on top, not embedded.")

Fuck that. Fuck this all. Noir. Dark.


And suddenly, density, for the rest of the evening. It was early yet, still so light, maybe 5:30, six o'clock, hours left yet of flirting and shaking and twisting and flitting, and yet I felt the heaviness sink in, felt the gravity seeping into my heels, pulling me under, that heavy sorrowful awareness that this is such a short ride, that this moment is all there is, that we can't take a goddamned second for granted.

And it stayed. And it lurked.

And I slept restlessly, tossingly, Saturday night, in spite of an early morning Sunday, and it was Father's Day, and I was so glad to be busy, so grateful to be preoccupied, because I didn't even think about it, I thought about redwoods and paper plates and wine openers and Sarazino, and then there was the cabbie who cared, who spent 20 minutes advising me on the details of my work and writing and love lives, and then there was the day, perfect, and then there was the sun, and then there was the wine, and then there was the beat,

and something about the beat reminds you that you're still here, you've still got a pulse, that in spite of the 2 pea-sized tumors looming on those fragile ovaries you are here and you are breathing and you are feeling and you are smelling and you are tasting and it is enough and then the concert ends and the fog doesn't roll in (the fog doesn't roll in, impossible!) and there are bongos down in front of the stage and you dance with some dude and he has a sense of rhythm and he's named Demetrius and shorter than you and he asks how you feel about height, right off the bat, and it's ridiculous, but you're alive and barefoot and secretly wearing a really ridiculous red satin bra that matches your equally ridiculous red lipstick and it's twilight on almost the longest day of the year and the trees are still growing and you're still breathing and N is resting at home because she was too weak to make it out today and your heart breaks at that weakness because it is so very much not her, she the force of nature, she the fiery spirit, she the Kali embodied, and you dance harder for it, because she can't, and you open the Malbec, because you can, and you know this is it and there's a tomorrow coming and it's a solstice and that's the longest day of the year which means sunshine and air and summer

and yet

noir
noir
noir

so much darkness
so much gravity
so much awareness that the end really is near, you can't assume she'll be able to stretch this out much further, and he so vulnerable with love for her, he a shell of a man at the thought of losing her, her fire and his fire and their equal prana lifting one another, my god, what beauty, what grace, what horror to think it'll all end sooner than they'd expected,

and you laugh about OJ Simpson in a white Bronco in 1994 and pretend, play-acting together, making light of the Big 10 and talking bullshit about golf but you all know really you're just trying to stem the tears because she's dying in front of you and that stupid piece of cake you brought to try to assuage the existential angst and the deep, deep disappointment will do nothing even with that lovely vanda orchid on top but you try anyway because it's all you have and you know that in spite of the hopelessness and the uselessness

it matters

just as hours in the sun in the fresh air eating homemade quiche bumping to that African beat with Michael's sweet blond Bodhi remind you that

it matters

the breathing
the moving
the baking
the dancing

it all matters

especially in light of the knowing

Rusty sang tonight, sang to Shiva the Destroyer, and I thought, oh, how apropos, and it was his last class before he leaves for Greece Tuesday and he spoke about reincarnation and life and what we do and how we love and who we love and I don't remember what else he said because I was fighting not to cry, because I was remembering N and her fight and her end being near and the fucking solstice and the irony that this most favorite of days, this long midsummer's evening, this stretched-out sunshine that is so much my heart, might be her last

will she see another solstice?

would that I could preserve it for her, stretch her days out the way this day stretched out, evade the dark, lift the density, lighten the gravity that darkens her days prematurely, in spite of her best efforts at humor and levity and self-deprecation and those goddamned fabulous sexy jokes in spite of the pain the horror the loss the fear

how little we know
how little we can plan for
how much we must live here, now, in this breath, this sunset

because the days grow shorter
and the hair will fall out again

it's just a matter of time now, six more rounds of chemo
climbing the Sisyphean mountain again
pushing up that goddamned rock
strapping on the boots
buckling the toolbelt

it's a wild ride, this

and thank god/dess for the beat and the sun and the sweat and the breath that remind us we're here

for the time being, at least
awaiting the inevitable approach of that shortest day

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Raw, adjective: 6. ignorant, inexperienced, or untrained: a raw recruit.


New favorite pose!

Meet Yoganidrasana.

You've seen it before, probably in some weird yoga's-freaky-and-here's-why guise. Just do a quick Google image search and I guarantee you'll be giggling like a 14-year-old. I can't even do this asana myself in a busy class without laughing my way out of it. I mean, hello: there's my crotch.

But. Once you get past the giggles and you're back in the silence and sanctuary of your own home, this puppy will really rock your world. Save it for the very end of your practice, when your hips are open, your hamstrings warm, and your spine's aching for a good forward fold after being compressed in one-too-many backbends. Take a headstand and a shoulderstand to fuck with your body's gravity a bit, and then, my loves, roll into this gorgeous sattvic asana. It'll blow your mind, I promise.

Helps to have loose hips and hamstrings, of course, so if you're not quite there yet, be patient. Tuck your feet behind your head, engage your bandhas, drop your chin to your chest, and grab your ass like you mean it. And then, the hardest part: just stay. And breathe. And stay. And feel any bullshit, any mental clatter, any physical blockages stored in your muscles just massage their way right out. Until you're left a clear empty vessel, shattered, broken open, in the best of ways. It's seriously crack, folks.

Read a more, uh, standard explanation of this asana over at Yoga Journal's Master Class article. It'll give you several preparatory postures as well as more detailed directions for entering and leaving yoganidrasana.

After a taste of this action, you won't be able to forget it. You'll crave a hit. Trust me.

It's a Wrap: Yoganidrasana Master Class (YJ)

Random shit I wanted to post that has no feasible connection whatsoever to any definition of "rawness"






Don't you wish YOU had siblings as
fabulously hep and sparkling as mine??

Genetic bliss, babes. Ever grateful.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Raw, idiom, 14a: in the natural, uncultivated, or unrefined state: nature in the raw.


Summer's here, and with it the onset of the live music season, also known as Reason #349 that I love living in San Francisco.

There's nothing like the eucalyptus-scented escape squeezed in those few short hours after the morning fog burns off and the evening mist blows in over the Golden Gate, when you can chuck aside your wrap and soak up the sun and listen to the sound of one badass band or another rocking it out in the middle of Sharon Meadow or Stern Grove or Yerba Buena Gardens. I busted out the old-school picnic basket a few weeks ago; it's officially stocked and ready for the season, and I'm so excited to park my ass under the redwoods and lose the upcoming months to percussion and Pinot Blanc.

So all this music-in-the-park action's had me thinking about the arts, and stillness, and meditation already, but lately then, too, I've been living and breathing the end of the symphony and ballet seasons and the beginning of the summer opera season (Girl of the Golden West with Deborah Voigt this month! Holy god!) and wrapping up Shaun and Noemi's run with one last (particularly rockin') performance last night. And in the process, I've found myself sitting. A lot. Sitting, and practicing listening, and trying not to wiggle, and turning off my phone, and turning off the mind, and just being there and soaking it up. And I'm realizing that this practice - of being present with the arts, of taking in what's offered there onstage, of cracking open with a certain receptivity that we otherwise don't necessarily practice in our daily routines - is not so different at all from what we do on the yoga mat each day.

There's a certain sanctuary, an implicit surrender, involved in walking into a theater or the opera house or even friggin' Stern Grove; there's an inherent mindset, an intention, that naturally spreads through your body, an offering up of time and space and a letting-go of the expectation that you're going to run your experience for 2.5 hours plus intermission, and a just sitting back and softening and being there.

Tuesday night I had tickets to the opera, and all day the anticipation fueled me: the prospect of that solace, that quiet, that fantastic repose of slipping into a lush seat and sharing a quiet smile and then the obligatory ceasing of conversation and thought and phone-ringing and list-making crept in and took over and the hush of the overture started and my mind had to follow it into seclusion and it was a tidal wave of silence and stillness and release. And I sat there for 3 and a half hours and loved the institutionalized cultural silence, the willed receptivity, the imposed meditation that is the having to turn everything else off and just be there in your body soaking up the music and the costumes and the voices and the language and the nuance and the laughter and the sorrow and the tragedy. I felt my jaw soften, my shoulders lighten, everything shifting as I released the day's tension into that active listening meditation.

You can't be somewhere else. You can't be living in your mind, planning the next day, thinking about yesterday, wondering about this or that or any of it. You've gotta just sit there, be there, be seriously fabulously present, taking it all in, really truly using your senses in a whole-bodied kind of way that we otherwise just tend to avoid.

The man on my left that night was on his iPhone the whole first act. It was all I could do not to smack him across the face and throw the damn thing on the floor. I mean, jesus christ. You're four rows back from one of the premiere opera companies in the world, you probably paid $300 to be right here, right now, breathing next to someone whose company you ostensibly enjoy, and Mephistopheles is singing about passion and youth and damnation, and the skies of that lush garden set are twinkling with faux celestial wonder, and up above there's one of the more amazing gilt chandeliers you've ever seen, and down below there's a charismatic Italian rockstar conducting the orchestra, and you're fucking checking your FACEBOOK?!?!? Really?!?

The whole thing was such a lesson in non-judgment, in breathing through the irritation, in not being distracted by his distraction. Not easy to do. And, unsurprisingly, when we came back for the second act, my Facebook-checking seatmate never returned.

Sigh. Is it really so difficult to suspend thought/motion/action long enough to sit still for a few hours and soak up one of the arts' many attempts to paint/sing/celebrate what it feels like to be alive? Are we so plugged into these outside stimuli, so frightened of having to sit and be present right where we are, that we've ceased to see the phenomenal expressions of life playing themselves out in front of us?

It's not easy finding that kind of spaciousness in our lives, to be sure, or even giving ourselves permission to rest in it. To trust that when we come back from this particular meditation everything will still be waiting right there. It can be scary to set that all aside.

So you actively build it into your life. You make it a practice. For me, I know that even if I'm running around all day doing this or that or whatever, or tied up in the kinds of conversations that can make me feel far from my reading-writing-contemplative-self, which is so fundamental to my sense of balance, if I've got tickets for a concert Monday night and the opera Tuesday night and the theater Wednesday night, then I know there's a structured spaciousness into which I can retreat, promising a few hours' of silence and stillness and receptivity, even if they're bookended by cocktails before or a late-dinner after. And that becomes a fueling, a grounding, a rebooting, in and of itself.

Building an arts-as-meditation practice into our lives can be an excellent way to learn how to be silent with people, too. Constant conversation can be draining. And so much of it is often, well, empty, preoccupied with silly superficial chatter, a whole lotta gossip, a whole lotta saying nothing. So choose instead to share a few meaningful hours of not-talking, accompanied by the thrum of guitars or the rattle of maracas or the steady beat of drums. You can share being alive with the people on your blanket or in your row or on the beach next to you, breathing the same air, letting the same sensual experiences wash over you. That's when the real repose, the real union, the real balance can come into play.

And on that note: you should read Cyndi Lee's article from a few years back over at Shambhala Sun. Lee emphasizes that we're mostly made of water - we're naturally meant to flow, of course, in spite of all blocked energy and tamasic heaviness and attempts at control and linearity - and so, why not go with that flow and let it fuel our ways of being in the world? She reminds us that "if you’re alive, there is no way you’re not feeling something. It takes being quiet, paying attention and opening to movement to find out what we’re feeling."

Sitting quietly at Outside Lands, or jamming out with your best mates at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, or splashing out on a blanket under the trees at Stern Grove all offer ways to "be quiet, pay attention, and open to movement" to find out what you're feeling. It's really just an externally-directed way of coming back into your senses, of finding that elusive balance, that union between mind, body, and spirit. As Lee writes,
Yoga means “union,” so it is truly not about any one thing, but always about relationship. Relating to waves of movement is what allows us to stay steady and sustain balance. The word “balance” comes from the Latin balare, meaning “to dance.” In yoga, we call this little balancing dance “pose” and “repose.” We yogis do this with every breath during our yoga practice so that eventually yoga is a practice of resting within movement and transition. It is a way to tap into the river of all life as it flows right now through our own body. Water is the reminder, but when we work this way our practice is also about movement of headaches, crabbiness, worry, sadness, stiff shoulders, joy and lunch.

You know what happens to water if it stays still—it either turns into ice or becomes brackish and unhealthy. The same thing happens when we try to latch on to a prescribed feeling or experience in yoga practice—or in any other situation. If we can only relax a bit we will see that our feelings, both emotional and physical, are flowing all the time. It never ceases to amaze me how I can begin my yoga practice with a heavy heart or a cluttered mind, and by the end feel refreshed in every way. The practice washes me from the inside out and I feel back in balance.
Let that balance wash over you in the course of a street fair or a night at the opera. Find in that yet another outlet to quiet the mind, to be still and let emotion pass through you. Then, there, you're doing your yoga. It's all so very impermanent, anyway. You don't get those moments back. You'll never get that crescendo back, or that guitar riff, or that spine-tingling chord at the end of the first act, or that rustle of redwood-scented breeze blowing through your hair as the late-afternoon sunshine cools into a fog-induced chill.

So just dig in, listen, and be there. And turn off your goddamned phone, already.

Go With the Flow (Shambhala Sun)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.


Power

Adrienne Rich

Living in the earth-deposits of our history

Today a backhoe divulged out of a crumbling flank of earth
one bottle amber perfect a hundred-year-old
cure for fever or melancholy a tonic
for living on this earth in the winters of this climate.

Today I was reading about Marie Curie:
she must have known she suffered from radiation sickness
her body bombarded for years by the element
she had purified
It seems she denied to the end
the source of the cataracts on her eyes
the cracked and suppurating skin of her finger-ends
till she could no longer hold a test-tube or a pencil

She died a famous woman denying
her wounds
denying
her wounds came from the same source as her power.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Raw, adjective: 6. ignorant, inexperienced, or untrained: a raw recruit.


I revisited this Mother Jones interview with renowned religious scholar Huston Smith the other day, and in the time since have found my thoughts frequently returning to it, running over and again through Smith's nuanced reflections on physics, Native American religion, and religious syncretism.

If you're not familiar with Huston, you owe yourselves a few hours with his work. For anyone interested in a syncretic, progressive melding of the world's great wisdom traditions, Smith's always been your go-to guy. I was lucky enough to hear him speak in Berkeley when I was a grad student, and though he was fragile and visibly physically weak, his mind was yet sharp, and his spirit strong. In spite of his 90-some years, the man retained that radiant vitality typical of someone who's sought and found and continues to identify as a student of the world and a seeker of wisdom, every day beginning anew.

Check out this piece from the late 1990s. If you don't have time to delve into any of Smith's more dense books, this interview offers a glimpse into his signature thoughts, particularly in terms of his opinions on "cafeteria-style" religion and the fascinating parallels between Native American peyote rituals and the Christian Eucharist. I love the way my fellow PK (!) has found basic themes to express the potential beauty of the pure ethical intentions behind often-oppressive religious institutions. Smith says
I know many of my students are what I have come to think of as wounded Christians or wounded Jews. What came through to them was dogmatism and moralism, and it rubbed them the wrong way. What came through to me was very different: We're in good hands, and in gratitude for that fact it would be well if we bore one another's burdens.
That's it, really. Simple, eh? A mindset that tosses away all the moralistic dogma and just emphasizes how mindful living might "help us behave decently toward one another." When you reduce your religious emphasis to compassion and right relation, all the institutionalized and codified bullshit just kind of fades away. Beautiful.

The World of Religion According to Huston Smith (Mother Jones)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Raw, idiom, 14b: Informal. in the nude; naked: sunbathing in the raw.




RIP, the ever-randy, ever-righteous Rue McClanahan.

* * *

"ROSE: Is it possible to love two men at one time?
BLANCHE: Set the scene. Have we been drinking?"



Rue McClanahan: An Appreciation of the Original Jezebel

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data.


in·tu·i·tion /ˌɪntuˈɪʃən, -tyu-/ [in-too-ish-uhn, -tyoo-]
–noun

1. direct perception of truth, fact, etc., independent of any reasoning process; immediate apprehension.
2. a fact, truth, etc., perceived in this way.
3. a keen and quick insight.
4. the quality or ability of having such direct perception or quick insight.
5. Philosophy.
a. an immediate cognition of an object not inferred or determined by a previous cognition of the same object.
b. any object or truth so discerned.
c. pure, untaught, noninferential knowledge.
6. Linguistics.
a. the ability of the native speaker to make linguistic judgments, as of the grammaticality, ambiguity, equivalence, or nonequivalence of sentences, deriving from the speaker's native-language competence.

Origin:
1400–50; late ME. LL intuitiōn- (s. of intuitiō ) contemplation, equiv. to L intuit ( us ), ptp. of intuērī to gaze at, contemplate + -iōn- -ion.

We know so much more than we think we know. Know what I'm sayin'?

Some things you just know are damn right because you know them, then, there, immediately. Blind Pilot's amazingly lilting melodies on Paint or Pollen, which carry you along so effortlessly that you know they were written in a blast of intuition; the listening is easy, the being there stops you in your tracks, the melody flows and you go right along with it, because it's so intuitively right. Adding almond to that cake batter and a few chopped pears, too; you don't overthink it, wondering if almond will clash with the pear; you just know it'll work, you play with it, you trust it, and of course, it does. Andrea's vinyasa sequences, which flow from asana to asana in the most rich fluid graceful easy natural intuitive kind of dancing way; that's good choreography, the kind that your body just takes on and embraces without fight, without thought. That's instinctive, organic, the mark of a good teacher, a skilled dancer, the kind of effortless flow that separates the amateur from the pro.

My mother always said she "knew things" before they happened. I've always been a little weirdly psychic myself. (Not gonna lie: it's kind of awkward saying that out loud.) But it's pretty creepy, to be honest. Clauds and I have long said that, should her modern dance career and my writing ambitions flame out in a blaze of failed artistic glory, we'll open a psychic shack and tell people's fortunes for a few bucks a pop. There will be turbans involved. And said shack will be made out of SR-PET, per our Plastiki boys (thanks, Ash and Matt). And we will wait sagely behind a curtain of sparkly red beads through which one must walk to access the divine medium, a.k.a Moi.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Point is. Intuition. Holy fucking intuition.

We in the West, still so rooted in Enlightenment-era notions of rationality as king, so foolishly insist on devaluing that kind of deep bodily knowing that's rooted in the bones. We waste so much time with the rational mind, thinking that if we reason one thing out or another, or make enough spreadsheets, or consult enough outside experts, we'll get the answers we've been looking for. When, meanwhile, that answer's been knocking at the back door the whole goddamned time, getting impatient, finally sitting on the stoop, putting his feet up, having a little siesta, chillin' with a cigarette and a bottle of cheap beer in hand as the foot taps and the head nods and the early evening sun sinks slowly below the horizon. And as twilight sets in, we're still hemming and hawing at the kitchen table, oblivious to the wizened old toothless savant waiting patiently for us to remember he's been out on the back porch the whole time. And if we wait long enough, stuck in our heads, fearfully lost in minutiae, he chucks his cigarette butt into the rock garden, says "fuck this," and heads out to play beer pong on the old ping-pong table in the woods.

Or some variation of that.

Think about it. Most of us "know" shit; we just don't trust it. Looking back, I bet you can find countless examples of certain things you knew in the moment, and in spite of any rational protestations to the contrary, later found that knowledge affirmed. I hadn't taken a vinyasa class with Rusty Wells in five years, and yet, one July day last summer when his email announcing a teacher training popped into my inbox, I knew in that instant it was exactly where I needed to be. I've awakened in the middle of the night in the throes of a new relationship, someone beloved breathing next to me in the rush of new and exciting connection, and "known" despite that present thrill that it was never going to work, even if it took six months for my rational mind to catch up with that bodily knowledge. I knew I needed to move first to Delaware and then to San Francisco, cross-country, sight unseen, a prairie kid in strange new lands, because I just knew. I knew on walking into this sweet garden flat of mine that it was meant to be my next home, and threw down an outrageous deposit within hours, in spite of the fact that it was inconvenient and expensive and completely unplanned. I've met men and known on eye contact that one day they'd matter, in spite of all obvious odds against it, although in some cases it took months or years for that mattering energy to shift, courtesy of a deliberately-placed hand on the lower back. I knew sitting on a remote hill one October afternoon northwest of Malaga that something was deeply wrong in my world, so I hitched a truck into the city courtesy of a strange German-Spaniard named Helmut, only to find a just-sent email from my mother that my father had been diagnosed that very morning with terminal cancer. We just know things.

You read anecdotes about this kind of knowledge. Mothers who wake in the middle of the night knowing that their soldier children stationed across the world in battle have come into some kind of danger, and then, sure enough - some disaster has really taken place. Examples abound. They remind us that this realm of intellectual knowing that we cling to with such a desperately grasping attempt at control is so very superficial, so shallow, so daft, in comparison.

Which is why I have so little patience with the indecisive chicks who sit at my bar and can't decide on a stupid glass of wine, who spend 10 minutes deliberating over the Pinot or the Malbec. Or the girlfriends who [god forbid] drag me along shopping and hem and haw over this color or that color; just pick the goddamned one you want already and stop questioning the fact that you don't already know! Because you do! So cut the crap! And which is why, on a more serious note, I get so impatient with the other, more grave kinds of mental masturbation over life decisions that often take up much of our conscious thought and comprise many of our day-to-day interpersonal conversations: should I move here or there, should I buy this car or that car, should I take this job or hold off, is this the right pair of socks or is that, should I date this dude or that one, should I get the ivy or the pothos (the pothos, duh!), should I blah blah blah blah blah. And on and on, ad infinitum. Mental masturbation, all.

How much time we waste trying to rationally answer any and all of these questions, when, as the years have taught me, we already know what we need/want/crave. It's not fucking rocket science. It's yogic, really; it's Buddhist, in one way or another; and it's Platonic, too, if I remember correctly all the way back to The Republic and the Theory of Forms and my freshman year Philosophy 101 class. The idea is that we already know everything we need to know; we just deceive ourselves into thinking that we don't, in failing to trust that inborn knowledge, in questioning that deep knowing that is part and parcel of being alive. It's a peeling away of the layers, really; an undoing, an unfolding, a blooming of the bound-up metaphorical onion. In other words, it's yoga: an opening, a softening, a letting-go of the clinging to thought and mind and reason and the illusion of control, and a resting in the deep wise something that is rooted grounded brilliant felt bodily knowledge.

I guess the point of all this is: stop fucking questioning yourselves. Stop over-analyzing every decision you make. Know what you know. Go with your gut. It's right, 9 times out of 10. Pick the color, the style, the cocktail you gravitated toward on first glance. It's the one you want, it's the one you went to before your overactive thinking mind got in the way. Go deep into that wild dark corner of yourself where everything's honest and naked and quite rough-around-the-edges, unhewn, misshapen. It's perfect there. Your body knows what it wants. It knows where it wants to be, what it wants to do, where it wants to go, what it needs, what it loves, what it craves, what it hungers for.

Undo the bullshit. Tame the mind. Quit the lists. Shove the pros and cons aside, cut the delay between question and decision. Just do. Just be. The mind can be crazy-making, if you let it. Slow down the talk. End the mental chatter. It's really just another meditation practice, in real-life form, in so very many ways.

And then once your mind is silent and still and your belly's telling you where you need to go, listen to this Blind Pilot tune, and feel the lilt of the melody, and notice how your breath slows when the lead singer slides through that one particular interval, and watch how your body goes with it, automatically, easily, effortlessly, and honor this little 4-minute ode to the kind of intuitive art that makes it such a fucking pleasure to be alive.



Blind Pilot ~ Paint or Pollen (Live on KEXP)