They’ve been sitting in a folder in the basement, old old work prints that never quite got finished, and are here scanned. I’m thinking to join a local photo co-op so I can scan some of the old negatives and revisit them, give them some love, resuscitate them from their state of defunctedness.They are moments of abandon, in different meanings of the word – a moment of wild running abandon; an abandoned fridge and perhaps child as well; and losing oneself to the abandon of sleep…Weekly Photo Challenge – Abandoned
The taxi driver refused to go any further.
In the dream I was staying in a hotel on Spadina near College and wanted to go shopping further down towards Dundas, in the deep and winding medieval streets, but the driver turned the car around and let me out, saying “most people don’t want to go down there – it’s too dangerous”.
It was like one of those neighbourhoods in Mexico City – Colonia Doctores or Ciudad Neza way back when – where all taxi drivers refuse to enter, cause everyone knows anything could happen.
So I walked.
The streets were deserted, dark, until I got down near the very bottom, almost to the waterfront, where the sky was wide and the road opened up into a kind of rock quarry, reminiscent of Teotihuacan –
And still walking, I ventured into the rocks, strolling happily until I sensed movement in the steps and mounds of the quarry. And as I looked, these creatures took shape.
They were lions – stone lions.
They were living animals – their large bodies moving and rummaging about – but they were made of stone, the same stone of the the quarry.
At just the moment that it registered in my mind what I was seeing, the danger I was in, a large lion sensed me too, the hint of movement in his peripheral vision, and his head snapped up in a snarl.
Then the pounce, the running jump of the massive creature coming after me.
Suddenly I had a large plywood board in my hands which I lay underneath in a crevice in the rocks, pulling the board flat on top of me, effectively disappearing into the ground.
The lion lumbered heavily over me, not finding me, scrambling over and away, somewhere beyond where I lay hidden.
The fear was so real, the terror so palpable – one of those nightmares that wakes you up in a sweat, blinking in the dark of the bedroom.
The next morning I was out walking, and turning the corner to where the new second-hand bookstore is, the guy who sells old National Geographic magazines for a buck a piece, I noticed several had big spreads on lions.
I brought them home and began to draw.
When the dream is so vivid, so strong, and yet so cryptic, there is nothing for it but to spend more time with the imagery…
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!
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?
Over a week ago I lost my glasses.
Somewhere on my way up to Collingwood they fell out of my bag.
They are the only pair of glasses I’ve ever owned – a recent acquisition (well, maybe 3 years ago) for reading, working on the computer… old lady glasses.
It was annoying – the thought of having to go back to the optometrist for a new prescription, having to fork over the cash to her, then more cash for a new pair of glasses… I was avoiding the problem, stalling.
At night, reading in bed, I stuck to the one library book that happens to be a large print edition – the highly entertaining Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter.
A week went by. 10 days. I dawdled, squinting at the computer screen.
Then this morning, on the ratty old rocker on the front porch, an apparition –
Returned by the delightful taxi driver from last week who took me to the bus station. They’d fallen out of my bag in her car. And she’d noticed, AND she had remembered me.
What a sweetie-pie!!! I’m in love….
The incident reminded me of the time we were living in Mexico City – we were supposed to be making a film, were often out shooting stuff and interviewing people, lugging cameras and sound gear around in taxis… I had a notebook in which I kept all names, phone numbers, notes and relevant observations, I kept it in a knapsack I took everywhere with me.
The city both fascinated and terrified me – the sprawling monstrous size, the compelling yet horrifying complexity and intensity of a city poised on a gelatinous former lakebed in a circle of mountains – the beauty of some of the architecture, the markets, the flowers and crafts, the rich history, but then the toxicity of the pollution, the extreme violence and prevalence of crime, and yet the hundreds of thousands of bold, beautiful, wonderful human beings living there.
My friend Maria had stories of being held at gunpoint by 5 guys when she was 7 months pregnant – how they’d kicked her in the stomach even though she gave them her cash. But that story not as bad as the time a few years before when she’d been held hostage for 3 days by a man who raped her and emptied her bank accounts.
“Don’t you ever think about leaving?”, I asked her, practically peeing my pants at the thought of staying in this city.
“Solo los cobardes se huyen”, she answered – Only cowards flee.
Count me a coward.
At that point we were staying in a little house in Coyoacan, an old and very pretty section of the city, where many of the houses had walls several feet thick – story was the Spanish conquistadors would hide their gold inside the walls, then murder the slaves who’d built the house and knew where the gold was, and hide their bodies inside the walls as well. There were many tales of ghosts wandering corridors and alleyways around the neighbourhood.
One night we got home to the little house where we lived and I realized I’d lost my knapsack, and in the knapsack, my notebook – probably on the floor of the taxi. All the names and places and ideas and plans and contact numbers…..gone.
There was a yellow pages phone book in the house (it was the 90’s, life before cel phones), and I opened it to the taxis section – hundreds of little companies. Where to begin? There was nothing memorable about the taxi we’d been in – it was one of thousands, if not millions of little VW bugs that served as taxis all over the city. All I remembered was it was one of the green ones, not a yellow one.
Several nights later the doorbell rang. A very formal, reserved man stood there. He held out my knapsack. He’d found the notebook inside and remembered us and our little house, in this city of some 20 million.
“How could you forget something so important?”, he wanted to know.
I stammered with disbelief, called him my guardian angel, tried to invite him in for a coffee, a beer, something to thank him.
He refused all offers. “Estamos para servirle”, he said – We are here to serve you – and went off into the night.