Strange Teachers

For several nights now I’ve dreamt of a temple of death.
Apropos for the Halloween / Day of the Dead season I suppose – the skulls and skeletons are everywhere, sticking up out of the ground, in and around a kind of pyramid rising up into a darkened sky with segmented sections, the lower levels somewhat gorier and grisly, the staircase up to the upper level flanked with lithe dancing young people.
The dreams seem sort of natural for the season, or like maybe they’re a by-product of the new moon / eclipse action happening in the sky, but I also suspect they’ve been brought on by this breathing exercise thingy I’ve been doing.
The exercise is an extended 5-month project, 40 minutes a day of combined breathing and visualizations, taught or guided by Sergio Magaña of Mexico City. He has a school in Mexico for teaching spiritual mastery and healing techniques of the ancient Toltec and Mexicas, or Aztec as we would call them.
Here’s some music to set the tone (the video has Maya imagery, but gives that ancient Mexico feeling) –

This guy Sergio has a book out, and someone on the book jacket blurb calls him “the new Carlos Castaneda”, really a most unfortunate and misleading reference because for one, his writing is not the lush fiction of Castaneda, but a more impenetrably cryptic mathematical and culturally localized explanation of things that made no sense to me until I went to a workshop he gave a couple of months ago in Owen Sound.
Secondly, there is no sign of a creepy Castaneda cult around him – he is a funny, laid back, lovely, helpful guy, and works with the UNESCO Heritage Club to preserve the Nahuatl culture.
Nonetheless, at the workshop in Owen Sound I found I was having some serious resistance – doubts or hesitations or reservations about being open to a teacher, a healer from outside my own cultural tradition. Maybe it was because I hadn’t dreamt about him before he appeared – something that has happened to me more than once, where I’ve dreamt of a wise person, then met them later, a phenomena which made me trust the wisdom, the prescience of the dream to have led me to them.
With Sergio there was also a question for me of cultural appropriateness – I worry over the kind of mix & match version of spiritual grab-baggery that seems to plague New Age type ventures. Even though I am fascinated by all things Mexican, have spent a lot of time there, still I hesitated.
I kind of wanted to ask him directly about these questions, about why we Anglo-Saxon types should feel free to saunter into the study of ancient Mexican culture, but I felt awkward and maybe like an insensitive brute, cause in the back of my mind was also the thought that it seemed a bit bizarre to be learning spirituality from the tradition of the Aztecs? I mean heck, those guys were INTENSE!
jawbone ex1 again
But I waited, didn’t raise any questions, just learned what I could, and then back at home one night reading, I stumbled on these words:

…if you go back far enough you can probably find that all our ancestors practiced human sacrifice. It was part of the religion in the old days and seems like it was practiced all around the world…” ~J.M. White

Right. Of course. Abraham and Isaac. Not quite the same scale but yes, the idea being that human moral codes are constantly shifting.
And the joke I always remember of how they say the Aztecs and the Spaniards deserved each other in terms of their mutual capacities for cruelty.

So being charmed by his lovely personality and the remarkable amount of success he’s had with his practices, and because it’s free and I find myself totally unable to stick with traditional meditation, I committed myself to the 5-month project of Sergio’s breathing exercises. And things are definitely starting to shift internally – some seismic cracks that have left me without much impulse to write.
The fundamental point of this breathing exercise is to “cleanse the shadow”, or in Western psychological terms, clear the unconscious.
It’s a technique that proposes to bypass all talking cures and do away entirely with the “story” of the self.
The idea is to let go of all the elements of what we tell ourselves about who we are.

The challenge lies in understanding and accepting that human beings are simply an idea, an illusion in motion, and that the only truth is the energy of the essence, which is pure potential. As long as we are aware that this is the case, then our idea of ourselves can easily be replaced by a better idea. ~ Sergio Magaña

The more weeks and now months that pass of doing this exercise for 40 minutes a day, the more I seem to be dreaming of death.
But later, as I get towards the end of it, I wonder what new imagery might wait for me there?

What do you dream of, dear reader?

Mindful biking

bike and foot
A couple of weekends ago I went to Montreal to see one of the special guru type people I have in my life.  Though actually she is not a guru the way Robert Moss or Ohki Simine Forest are in the sense of giving workshops and teachings and publishing books, still she has been a major influence.  Really, technically, she is simply a psychic.  But she is a special psychic – not a corner store neon sign flashing crystal ball type psychic, but a real bona fide seer – special enough to take the bus to Montreal just to have a session with her.

The first time I saw her – sent there on the recommendation of a friend who had heard of her but said she didn’t have the courage to see her herself – she completely spooked me out.  The spook was in part because her eyes remain half closed, flickering, the whites of the eyes showing through her eyelashes while she talks. Partly she spooked me simply cause she saw everything in my life with such a searing clarity it was like a knife slicing open my clothes and cutting into my chest and ripping my heart out into the light of day.

However.  She never remembers what she says or even your face if you were to meet her in the street – a fact that I’ve become grateful for, as it makes the session entirely private.

She explains the first time you see her that what she does is not about predicting the future, but is about serving as a kind of mirror, reflecting back to you the deeper voices inside your life that need to be heard.

Part of what I love about her is that she’s a Buddhist – well, she doesn’t declare herself as such, but it’s obvious from the few books on a shelf, from the minimalist decor, from the mockery she will make of things like attachment to desire and hope – evidence of Buddhist teachings and philosophy.

This trip I took I’d been craving to see her for months – I knew she would be able to speak to something I was struggling with in my own creative projects, a lack of focus, too many ideas.  I’d been struggling with myself and knew I was flapping in the wind, not on track, not clear in my direction.  I got on the bus essentially hoping she would tell me which project I should do.

She didn’t.

She didn’t – instead she chastised me (as she always has – or perhaps as my own internal voices always have) and the entire experience left me in a terrible funk for several days.

But pulling out of the funk, I focused on her instruction, her teaching, which was: GO DEEPER.  Take up serious practice.  Get a life coach, meditate, do yoga, something, anything that will make you Go Deeper.

So as a first step I’ve loaded up the iPod with some meditations and teachings by greats like Pema Chodron and Lewis Mehl-Madrona (a very interesting physician / story teller / healer of the indigenous persuasion) and a new-to-me, but very known and experienced teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh.

Well, Thich Nhat Hanh talks a lot about mindful breathing and mindful walking – and I’ve been listening to all this on my bike ride to and from work.  And at first, I thought, well I don’t really have time for mindful walking, I need to get to work, so maybe mindful walking is like mindful biking in a way…. but the distractions of traffic, and trucks unloading in the bike lane, and the dicey characters on the way down Sherbourne who eye the purse in my back basket, and the terrible bumps in the state of the roads in Toronto these days…. and although I loved the amazing peacefulness of his voice, I thought perhaps it was just all too spiritual for weaving in and out of the cars and streetcar tracks, trying not to get side-swiped by the cube trucks talking on their cel phones….

bike on sherbourne

But then I got to a bit in the recording about mindful driving.

He takes you into the possible moments for mindfulness while driving – he talks about being grateful to the red light for slowing you down to breathe and pay attention and go deep…

Well then, true love.  I love this man’s knowledge and appreciation of the human condition so completely….

And slowly I’m starting to shift my anger at the trucks in the bike lane ever so slightly.  The bumps in the road seem more like an opportunity for an ab exercise to suspend myself above the bike and not feel the bounces of the path.  And I’m starting to look at the dicey characters on Sherbourne Street with some affection and compassion.

may virtue