Sansaku: Giveaways


Coyote looked like a derelict and was easy to pigeon-hole and type. His hair and clothes were giveaways. People thought they saw him. It’s not at all how he looked to her. Gret said, “They can’t see you, can they?” He said, “It’s the damnedest thing.”

We don’t have eyes for reality, we mostly see self-constructs.

This morning a very small life form was crossing the sink. It wasn’t much more than a speck. It looked like a floater, a mote, and I had to get closer. No doubts about it. A Dr. Seuss character scuttled down the drain, but stopped to look at me. Shift the scale, that’s the secret.

We’re tuned to standard time and space, it’s an agreed upon way to measure reality. We’re conditioned to perceive reality from a given perspective and point of view. It’s assumed to stay the same.

There’s a standard scale to language, and we’re daft enough to believe we know what a word means. And while the standard of trade is money, a dollar doesn’t mean the same amount to a child who finds one as it does to the man with a million.

The standard measure keeps us on the same wave-length and frequency or channel. But it’s not the only channel. Slow it down and enter into the moment, the experience, the consciousness. Or speed it up and watch the seasons and cycles. The seed of the same tree, the soul, turns into the self of the new. The story keeps evolving.

What happens at the shadow gate? I’ve been hanging around with Coyote, Gret and Han. Coyote has his back to the tree in the center of the square and looks like a host.

Fantasy shifts the scale. Instead of looking at reality with pathological eyes, we open the mythological. There’s an old song playing in the background, “Oh, dear, what can the matter be? Oh, dear, what can the matter be? Oh, dear, what can the matter be? Johnny’s so long at the fair.” Where did that come from?

Gret and Coyote are at the shadow gate, and it’s an imaginative and creative place. Gret says to Coyote and Han, “It’s perfect.” What she means is not the place, the people, what is happening or time. The word refers to feeling. She’s feeling whole, complete.

When Alice followed the rabbit down the hole, she came to a door. It was very, very small. She was too large to fit.   It’s one of the better parts of the story.   When she drinks the liquor it shrinks her down, but she forgot about the key. But then she eats the cake, in fact, she eats the whole thing. She overdoses.

It gets wilder. There’s a psychedelic mushroom and a caterpillar smoking a hookah. He asks the magical question, “Who are you?”

Gret has not crossed into the Witch Woods since she and Han got out on the back of a bird. Children can shift perspective and cross over, but adults are too conditioned and tuned to the standard scale. Coyote’s come to help.

After the witch baked and her house decomposed, she turned into soil and the tree that grew there had the most amazing fruit. Coyote asked the birds to smuggle some across the border. He offered her a bite.

Gret had one of Coyote’s eyes and he had one of hers. But this was like stepping into a time machine, a rocket ship, or some expansive consciousness together.

The look on both their faces was a giveaway.











An Incredible Intention

Sansaku: An Incredible Intention


Coyote said, “Right here, right now, the tree and ground, it’s the smackdab center.” He hadn’t heard the news, astronomers had a new instrument to measure gravitational waves and detected two black holes that collided some two billion light years away.

There’s a black hole at the center of every galaxy and some are super massive. Light shines in and nothing comes back out. But when I hear about the big bang and the universe being born, it’s an easy association. Sounds like life. Is it conscious?

Alchemists and physicists share a delusion that’s paid off. What they study out there looks a lot like the consciousness in here, but that’s a hard argument to make. Some wise guy said, “We don’t see how the world is, we see how we are.”

Joseph Campbell had a story he liked to tell. When Black Elk returned from his vision quest, he made this comment. “The center of the universe is Harney Peak.” It’s the place where he sat in the dream state. But he added, “It’s the center, just like everywhere else.”

Since Hansel and Gretel are grown, I’m shortening their names. Han now sounds like a Chinese dynasty and Gret has tough gritty sound. Her voice has some gravel and edge. Both are waiting for Coyote to say the word. They’ve come to the shadow gate. Eyes closed.

Coyote’s eyes are open and he’s smiling.   Han and Gret have taken themselves a little too seriously and forgotten Coyote’s a trickster. He’s messing with them now. “You had me going,” said Gret. She’s wasn’t pissed, but a little disappointed. She was ready to cross. Coyote said, “No, you’re not.”

Han felt the boundary and something watching from the far side. “What was that?” Coyote threw the question back, “What did it feel like?” Han said, “Like I didn’t have any clothes.” Coyote said, “I guess you did.”

When I asked Irma before she died, “What have you learned?” She said one word, “Tolerance.” She went on to say, “We are all needed and all belong.” I wouldn’t call her exceedingly self-conscious, but she was very sensitive to what others thought and felt.

If human sensitivity was graphed on one axis and tolerance on the other, three of the four quadrants will have a negative charge to them. Only the sensitive and tolerant are open to everything.

Usually we project and see the evil in others, not ourselves. It’s our intolerance and shame, our unwillingness to face it in ourselves. It can make us insensitive and numb.

We seek comfort and escape from the emotions we don’t want to confront, and these defensive maneuvers build the walls and gates. It’s why most spiritual paths suggest we face the fear and the shame we avoid.

It’s what Buddha did under the tree on his psychotic three-day journey. Jung self-analyzed himself and said, “At the bottom, you can’t fall any further.” It’s the working through and takes determined mindfulness and all kinds of compassion. It’s an incredible intention.

At the shadow gate we ask an unseen presence, “Tell me what I don’t want to know, what I avoid and hide from. Show me what I don’t want to see and have turned my back on.”

The alchemists discovered if you heated a solution, it cracked and separated. The dark and heavy dropped out first, finally the distillate.











A More Creative Image

Sansaku: A More Creative Image


Jean Houston was asked how she got so much done. “I get up early, live in accelerated time, and try to avoid self-consciousness. It takes a lot of energy worrying about what others might think or say. I’m sponsored by a more creative image.”

I think the word accelerate sounds like speeding up, when it’s really slowing down and compressing. It’s about opening time up and entering, not cramming to get things done. But what she said about self-consciousness and a more creative image perked my ears.

When Louise celebrated her hundredth birthday she said, “I’ve charted the arc of evolution in consciousness all my life. I know who I want to be.” She looked around and smiled. “I’m a composite being of all the qualities and traits, of the very energies, that make up all of the people I love.”

When I was sick with back pain, Louise paid a house call. She was only ninety then. While she had an M.D. from Tulane, she was a healer who could doctor the soul. Using hypnosis and not nitrous oxide, she took me under and guided the journey. “Visualize the image, the perfect form and function.” She had me soften the hurt spine and align it with the perfect image. I watched them merge. Perfect applied.

I, too, am a composite being and Louise is one of my many parts.   Since getting sick a few days ago, I’ve thought of her and what she means to me. She knows each person matters, each thought and deed. “We influence reality. There’s power in forgiveness.”

The image of a scale and balance comes to mind. The kind where even a feather can tip it. Louise, who channeled an ancient master, said, “Now more than ever, we need to remember, each feather counts.”

Most leadership books have this one idea in common, try to bring out the best in yourself and others. Why is this so difficult? I know what the sages say, “Try to be less harsh on yourself and others.”

A woman accused me of not liking her dog. It pissed me off and I fought back in the dream. I said things I shouldn’t have. And then I saw the dog was looking at both of us. I went to the dog and the dog came to me. We greeted with affection and love. I wondered why I hadn’t responded this way from the first, but no need to be so harsh.

Louise memorized poems along with her grandfather. He was slowly going deaf and blind. He wanted a way to keep beauty in mind and together they picked out poems. “Now I will never be deprived of sound and sight,” he said. It brought tears to my eyes.

The two oldest people I’ve ever known, Lee and Louise, both taught the secret of time. Is there anyone who does not wish to be more loving, more kind, more beautiful, and wise? The more creative image.

Do you remember when Aladdin found the cave? Beside the lamp, the carpet and the genii, the cavern itself was conscious. The rocks responded and let him in. It looked like a dragon.

There’s always a password, a key. Open sesame, the abracadabra spell. But only for the right person, at the right time, the one who can speak to stone.

Gretel thought, “If I got in and was allowed three wishes, I know one of them would be dragon-speak. The ancient tongue and language common to all, even stone.” Coyote noticed and said, “Not bad.”

Coyote touched the ground and said, “Right where we’re sitting, right against this tree, is one of those openings in time. Look around.” They did. The world around them was spinning, they alone were still.





An Apologetic God

Sansaku: An Apologetic God


I haven’t been sick, not like this, for a couple of years. I forget until I remember, this feeling of suspended animation. Suddenly old, I watch the outer world spin. I’m going nowhere today.

I feel like those bums in the park, down by the river, sitting peacefully under the trees. It’s how Buddha and his buddies spent their days. They carried a bowl and begged for some food. Who knows if our bums are enlightened, but most of them looked buzzed.

Coyote didn’t need a disguise. He fit right in with the inner-city crowd.   Hansel and Gretel walked beside him. They were circling the square.

One of the bums saw them coming. He recognized el Vagabundo and greeted him with gusto. Coyote replied in kind, “And I see you.”   Then he headed in a round-about way for a centermost tree. It was an obvious choice and Gretel wondered why she hadn’t seen the tree before. Coyote said, “It’s that eye of mine I gave you.”

The three of them sat, their backs to the tree, looking in different directions. It was the same world, but they didn’t see the same world. Because Hansel didn’t share an eye, he had to ask, “What can’t I see?”

John O’Donohue said the human skin is porous and the world flows through us. Our senses let the world in. Coyote would agree with him, “Be attuned to the body, the earth, and not all the news and noise.” He told Hansel, “You might not have an eye, but you can feel what we see.” He wasn’t sure. Coyote added, “If you can’t, we’ll tell you.”

I went to see a dentist in Durango for a problematic tooth, but after examining me, he asked what I wanted him to do. Usually, they’ll tell you. He didn’t seem to know. I wanted to see someone else.

This was during my gypsy years and a few weeks later I happened to be in Boulder. Irma told me our old dentist had retired and the new one reminded her of me. I gave him a call.

Michael asked what was wrong and I opened up and pointed to the tooth. He studied it. I liked what he said. “Most dentists don’t know how to deal with this.” He passed the test and fixed the tooth.

Michael was an unusual doctor, he asked all kinds of questions. He’s the kind who’s interested in the person, not just the problem. He thought different kinds of people have different kinds of problems.

When he asked about my life and I told him I was wandering, he wanted to know how I spent my time. I briefly described my ritual.

He asked what I’d been reading. I told him The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James. It was a bit coincidental. James used nitrous oxide for some of his mystical experiences. I had an idea.

After adjusting the level towards the high side, he gave me some time to explore. I have no idea how long it was, but I was thoroughly in the timeless by the time he returned. I told him I didn’t need any anesthesia. It’s the only time I’ve ever done this.

I’d crossed over into that inner imaginal world and was floating through the clouds when the drill hit the tooth. That got my attention. Looking down I saw a city. Not quite familiar, I approached. The drill came in the form of tornadoes and wild fires. I grieved for my neglect.

Hearing the cries and prayers, I felt like an apologetic god. There was nothing I could do. The scene was incredibly real and lasted just as long. I told the tooth people, “I’ll do better in the future.” It’s how I’m feeling now. Because I’m sick, I vow to do better.

Was this real? Ask Coyote or the tooth.







Far From Certain

Sansaku: Far From Certain


Coyote was sitting in his spot on the top of the hill. Gretel sat beside him. Down below the noise from a patriotic parade and fireworks, but the paradox of distance was at play. What’s far away looks small, like the dark clouds on the horizon.

The King had come to town and people wanted to see for themselves. Great mirrors surrounded the King and they were painted to reflect what he wanted to see. It depended on what side of the street you stood. They shouted back and forth, fake and real.

“Can you see the Beast?” Coyote asked her. She didn’t know what he meant and Coyote realized she lacked the vision to see.   “I’m going to give you one of my eyes,” and the Coyote eye entered her mindsight. Gretel said, “Here, let me give you one of mine.”

Coyote thought twice before accepting the gift. It came with a price.

When Gretel mentioned the smog that enveloped the valley, Coyote said, “Smog, that’s a good name for the Beast.” And now that she looked a little closer, she could see Smog looked like the shadow of some dark being.

Coyote, who was now in her mind, said, “It’s like a spider’s web and everyone’s caught within it.” Gretel thought, “We need to get out of here and head for the hills. We should probably go fetch Hansel.”

“That’s the problem,” said Coyote, “there’s no need to leave or go anywhere. The shadow cloud is everywhere. That’s why I’ve come. It’s all around and circles us.”

He described how the forest was slowly then quickly disappearing. The shadow cloud sickened the trees and killed off some of the oldest and best. It’s like a cancer and can’t stop growing and spreading. Doesn’t it know it’s killing itself.”

Gretel said, “If we can’t run away and hide, where do we go?” She knew almost as soon as she said it where they’d make a stand. “We’re headed toward the center, aren’t we?” Absolutely.

Smog clouded the sky and the mind, deep memory went dark. Coyote thought the great gift, imagination, had been poisoned. “The People no longer believe in the Dragon, the one who lives in dreamtime.   She’s the Great Mother creator and the one who sent me here.”

The eye that Gretel gave him understood. Instead of a gingerbread house for the starving, the Beast lured the People with new cars and crap they didn’t need. It promised them their heart’s desire, and soul was the price they paid. Coyote felt great grief.

I haven’t read the book since childhood, but I’ve seen the movie any number of times. After Dorothy kills the two witches in Oz, both by accident, she discovers she has the power and means, “There’s no place like home.” She sees the sacred characters now in the common light. Even the witch is there and she knows what to do.

She says, “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with. And this is my room, and you’re all here, and I’m not going to leave here ever.”

I don’t think so. Once you’ve been to Oz, the old black and white world of television Kansas just won’t do. But she does have it right. She need go no further than her own backyard. She’s never really lost it.

Jung didn’t say it quite like this, but the unconscious needed to be humanized.   And it was far from certain whether we would learn to love or not.





El Vagabundo

Sansaku: El Vagabundo


I said it last night in a dream, “Vagabond dreams.” We were on Arapahoe, across the street from Boulder High. I felt like a teenager with his new girlfriend out past curfew.

I looked the word up. It derives from the Latin to wander. It’s noun, adjective and verb. Drifting from place to place, carefree, unsettled, disreputable, worthless. Having an uncertain or irregular course or direction. No permanent home, no visible means of support, a vagrant, a tramp. An irresponsible rogue. It’s going out of usage.

I journal like a vagabond and talk to myself. Occasionally, I’ll say something a little too loud. It startles me. I’ll stop my wandering and look at the sentence or word. I did that yesterday with this one: “Most failures are failures of the imagination.” It’s because we live in a nonlinear reality that’s in a far-from-equilibrium condition. Small things, simple twists of fate, can change everything and fast.

What can go wrong with imagination and how can we fail to develop a strong and healthy one? What does that even mean? Kids know and Disney made billions on turning the imagination into movies. If they ever made a movie out of Hansel and Gretel, I didn’t see it.

I remember hearing that these stories were like inoculations for later traumatic experiences in life. I don’t think the Brothers Grimm used the word trauma, but it’s all over that story. Twice abandoned and betrayed by their parents, trapped by a witch in the woods, they didn’t just kill her, they heard the screams as she roasted. They danced around looting the place. My imagination cheered them on.

I wanted details. Tell me more.

Why does this result in their post-traumatic growth and not disorder? Do we protect the integrity of the imagination by gutting and stuffing the story so the witch comes out of the oven looking like cookies?

Jung said the psyche is image and that’s at the root of imagination. The word gets used in all sorts of ways. Keeping up with the Kardashians is all about image. They’ve made a bundle off of image and packaging.

Image is photographic. I can see the Circle Peaks from the top of Trail Ridge Road. My hat blows off and I chase it across the tundra. It’s the image of Dream Lake and that limber pine where I planted some of Irma’s ashes.   Once again, the wind took my hat.

There’s an after-image that’s burnt into the brain with trauma. It’s a perpetual double-exposure. I’ve seen those transparencies of the body. First the bones, then the organs and systems, the muscles, and finally the skin and the face.   What’s your image? Any after-images?

I was told to look up nice in the back of a counseling text and when I couldn’t find it, the professor said, “That’s right. It’s not there.” But that’s one of those sentences that went wandering and stayed with me. I’ve told the story a hundred times. Try looking up mean.

My brother was frequently told he was too nice. Some thought it a fatal flaw and others a great blessing. I always knew I was lucky to have a nice brother. And I was lucky he was smart. I measured myself according to him. That’s what the fairytales are meant to do.

Centering doesn’t matter if the wheel is stopped or slow. Speed it up and it’s a different matter, now the clay gets flung. Gretel had a nose for the center point and was slowly drifting in that direction, but not like that vagabond Coyote. He was already there and watching the craziness unfold.

He was singing a song, “Stand by Me.”









Typology and Imagination

Sansaku: Typology and Imagination


Most failures are a failure of the imagination. At this time last year, we watched the presidential debate. Trump bullied and stalked and brazenly tried to intimidate. The commentator said, “Disgraceful.”

Hillary played the game as best she understood. He bluffed and cheated; she failed to call him out. Six months later, after she lost the election, her imagination kicked in. She wished she’d turned around and said, “Back off, you creep.”

When I’m asked to teach about typology, I’d rather write.

Type, like diagnosis, can be seen as a way to shrink and label. It can also be used to open and link. In group, when I wanted to know what kind of a person you were, I used a boundary breaking exercise. It’s almost unimaginable how well it works.

At first approach, type is mostly projective. One look at Trump is all it takes for me to know; I don’t like him. When I imagine what it’s like to live with him, I cringe. But my dad was a trickster. Because he was dark and dangerous and I was a boy, I found him much more interesting than my sweet and gentle mother. Type is very tricky.

A season can be experienced in a day, but it helps to have lived many seasons, many years. How else could we perceive? And there are seasons over the course of a life-time. I suppose, given the odds and Irma’s long life, I’m exactly where the date is today. Early October, the first freeze. Instead of leaves, it’s my hair that’s fallen with the breeze.

Type’s the same. We can experience in a moment what a person is like. When I met Chyako, I thought I knew her well. And then we lived together, got married, now twenty years. I had a good imagination.

Anyway, I began the boundary breaking exercise with a number of content questions. What were you like as a child? Go around a couple of times to prime the imaginative pump. Coyote, who doesn’t look like a dog, says, “I was curious and playful. I got into all kinds of trouble.”

Hansel said he was fast and clever. Gretel described being good; she did as she was told. Not that she liked it. On the second go around, she said, “I was always watching others, I could feel them.”

What were you like in high school? How did puberty change you? This prompt takes it deeper. Coyote reminds me of a certain friend and says, “I was bad. I joined a gang and skipped school. We chased sheep and had our way with them. I liked to go downtown and drink.”

Hansel wasn’t like that. He said, “I was a total success in high school. I made good grades, played sports, dated a cheerleader. I had a good time.” Gretel said, “I was never the same after I killed the witch and we stole the treasure.” She turned into a strikingly beautiful and quite mysterious young woman. “The boys were afraid of me.”

There’s any number of go-around questions. What was your group like? What role did you play? Who did you try to avoid? When I was in high school I hated those guys like the Trump. What would it be like to live with you? I could be a wee bit moody at times.

Coyote said, “Good luck if you think you can change me.” Hansel said, “You can count on me to get the work done. I’m reliable but busy.” Gretel said, “I’m real.” Coyote and Hansel agreed, it was true.

After the content rounds, the process questions. This is where it gets dangerous and deep. It’s time for feedback, how the others have come across. Ask Coyote, “How do you see Hansel? What kind of a person is he? Any surprises?” He’s not so fast to answer now. He asks Hansel, “Are you sure you want to know?”