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Still vulnerable after all these years (Read 22467 times)
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Posts: 391
Still vulnerable after all these years
04/13/13 at 09:13:39
It's been months or maybe a year since I last posted much of significance here. I'm now catching up, on the occasion of the death of the woman who helped me deeply as a therapist, and on the occasion of leaving another teacher who I discovered had been taking advantage of me.

I left the BKs in 1994, so that was 20 years ago, around the same time I met the woman who would become my wife.

I knew I didn't want to be involved with any organized religion. I did end up studying another field that requires a long apprenticeship, and cultivates a sensitivity that most people don't have. Two fields, actually, related to healing.

The first was following a Japanese healing master, who had near-magical abilities, who claimed to be able to teach them, and who had a number of followers, one of whom had been a BK before. I had actually given the course (the famous seven-days course) to her.

After a couple of years, it was clear to me that I couldn't follow his recipes, and couldn't feel all that he felt. I didn't have the strength to hallucinate my way into the depths that he experienced.

But I heard him give a curse, to a friend of mine, who was practicing another healing art. The master said this man's body was already ruined. He did die some years later, at age 60, from a cancer.

I had already been influenced though, and left the master to follow this second healing art, which has engaged me for almost 20 years. The first art I had studied only three years or so, while I was still a BK.

Like jazz, or carpentry, this second healing art is unmistakeable in its results. You recognize great music, you don't need to be convinced whether it is real or not. You can see the results of carpentry. No one has to tell you that it is something real.

The second art was like this. I am still studying. Still practicing, although my relationship to the art, and to myself, and how I conceive of presenting myself and relating through this art to the world has changed.

At least it is something real and practical. Like music, there is magic, but no mystery, no godlike object of worship.

What was it that engaged me with the BKs for so long? For the 12 years or so that I thought I was one of the elite?

I'm quiet, inward, in some ways the word depressive might apply. I live near the some of the world's great beaches, yet I don't go to swim much, even though I spent many years developing an effortless freestyle. Even though swimming changes my experience of myself, takes me to another dimension, simultaneously an escape and a presence in myself.

A couple beers with my dinner help the words to come out easily, and I'm sharing this because I'm ready to share something a little deeper.

I just broke off a relationship. A musical relationship. The woman who was a therapist for me, then later a friend, had found him. A smooth talking black man and his wife. Him, a gifted drummer who has devoted himself to learning the rhythms, songs, dances and traditions of West Africa.  Her a dancer in that tradition, who also knows the drumming.

Poor, homeless, they spent a lot of their nights sleeping illegally on the beach, two in a community of homeless that live on the island.

My therapist paid for me to have a lesson with this man. He turned out to be a patient, creative teacher, always with another idea of something interesting to teach.

I made a lot of effort to study with him. I'd drive 40 minutes to the other side of the island to meet him. I'd have to pick up the drums, sometimes borrowing the ones my therapist had bought from him, then pick up him and his wife (he was always with his wife) take them to a place on the beach to practice. Afterwards take them home, then take the drums back to *their* home. It was a time-consuming process, but I was willing to make an effort because of the quality of the teaching, the joy the teacher shared with me, and the quick learning I experienced. Each week I was astonished at how much I had gained. When I could manage two lessons per week my progress was even faster.

All this had a financial cost, too. Reggie (not his real name) constantly told stories. Many were funny, some sad. At the end of the stories, I learned that he had some urgent expenses or another. Being in a situation of relative abundance, I would end up fronting him some extra money in addition to paying for the lesson.

Always something urgent would come up, his conga drums were about to be sold by the pawn shop he had taken them to for some money he desperately needed. Or his phone was about to be cut off, or had already been cut off. Or he was about to lose his rental storage space and his few worldly possessions because he had no money to pay. Or he was having problems with one of his eyes.

Sometimes he would tell me a story about one of his capable and generous friends, that would eventually lead to my doing some other favor for him.

I never thought I would get caught up in an organized religion again (and I haven't) but somehow I got caught on this man's hook. I couldn't see it because of the joy of drumming with him, and his patience, creativity, humor and generosity as a teacher.

Already six months ago my wife could sense there was something odd about this man, and some sourness or bitterness in wife. We had extended various forms of hospitality. They wanted to get out of their homeless situation for a couple days, so we invited them. Yet they had no car (I had to drive them) and no money (I had to buy their food.) We had to do everything for them.

It didn't seem quite right.

Believing myself to be sensitive, I let myself get sucked into being responsible for this man (this couple's) problems. Of being the solution to the otherwise insurmountable problem that fortune had decreed would dog this man's life.

When someone takes you beyond yourself, inspires you to make new efforts, to explore new directions. There is something magical about that, and you feel the relationship has a deeper significance.

But after a year and a half, the money problems aren't getting better. My therapist and I agreed to share the cost of paying a delinquent traffic ticket for him in California so he could get his license here. And she told him she was willing him her car.

She already had bought a pine box, which was under a tarp in her garden. She had reached her nineties, and was getting weaker. Still, she continued to draw, to study, to learn new things. Her curiosity about life and her passion drove her to explore right up to the end.

Now she needed oxygen all the time. I would meet her once a week or so, sometimes driving her to the beach for a picnic at sunset.

She died. There was a problem getting the title to the car, and the drummer needed a car in better condition than hers, and a licensed driver to accompany him to the DMV for a driving test.

I helped and helped and helped. Eventually it dawned on me: I was never going to get back the money I loaned him. And worse than that: he was using me.

His sunny warmth whenever we met was something he could turn on or off. It was real enough and it was an act. An act I didn't want to be part of anymore.

How was it I got hooked, and stayed hooked for so long? Something limited in myself, wanting a teacher or guide to push me to accomplish something more.

The tl;dr (too long; didn't read) summary for the impatient: the weakenesses that led me to dedicate so much of my life to the BK family and lifestyle are still with me today. I believe someone, and don't see that what they want is not who I am. What they want is bound up in the resources I bring. Not a soul-to-soul relationship!

I see how my own weakness and hunger makes me vulnerable, flawed, human. Subject to being taken advantage of.

Recently I dreamed about a dangerous mafiosi that I had someone gotten involved with. I had to help him, carefully, vigilantly, lest his anger lead him to destroy me.

The dream sums up the problem if letting my power go somewhere outside myself, of giving my power to another, who seems more capable than I.
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Re: Still vulnerable after all these years
Reply #1 - 04/14/13 at 08:09:24
Hey Joel,

Amazing experiences. I suppose we never stop idealising.

Your late friend the therapist sounds like she was a wonderful person.

Your dream, in Jungian terms, would be interpreted as the mafiosi being part of your self that insists on being served but is not "consciously" recognised,  so has to work from the shadows . Maybe an enforcer for the 'naive" idealist  that rules in your underworld,   whom you'd thought you'd tempered with experience? Just my initial reaction,  something to consider.

Whether what is considered is specifically  "true" to the dream or not, a possibility explored that reminds us of truisms is still worthwhile, or may resonate with yet to be explored areas and trigger something new in the ever-manifesting self.

That you do not take advantage of what you can do for yourself that you know "works" , like surf-swimming, and instead seek new inputs from others thereby leaving yourself vulnerable reveals a couple of things. Restless yearning and curiosity is one.

The other might be down to what Freud called the dynamic between the "gods" Eros & Thanatos (death- the greek syllables θα-να-τος etymologically might be "will-it-be").

Eros - the principle of vitality, energy, integration, attraction,and (possibly in foolish/immature form) a kind of constant craving - is the dominant principle when we are younger, while Thanatos grows stronger as we grow older. Your late friend's example shows how she fed Eros as much as much as possible to keep her life rich and worthwhile.

Jung saw the dynamic this way too, and added the Puer (child) & Senex (old man) principles.

Or what Nietzche termed "levity & gravity" and built up his idea of the "constant overcoming".

Both poles have their good and bad aspects, which I think always comes down to what is"appropriate."

As for your ex-drumming teacher, well, the trickster within is often accompanied by a trickster without! From his perspective, subjectively, as long as he is honest with himself about his dishonesty he won't feel too bad about what he does, he might have found that to be his groove as much as anything! But nothing last forever...

More later. I am heading out to enjoy our perfect early autumn weather.
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On the 20 year anniversary of my leaving the BKs
Reply #2 - 05/01/13 at 21:31:49
Recognizing this time in my life, I thought to follow up the previous post with another.

Twenty years! And how is my life now, after leaving the BKs, entering a world of self-responsibility?

A broader pool of people to learn from, new relationships, marriage, self-awareness inclusive of my body.

New learning about learning, learning through the senses, learning through sensation, through trial-and-error.  There is no shortcut, but calm, careful attentive explorations. Guidance by a teacher can help those (as myself) who are not entirely autodidacts. Smiley

Years of training and apprentice in Feldenkrais, organizing my spine, limbs and head to work more efficiently together. Overcoming spasms in back and neck.

Learning to swim the crawl, not fast, but an easy rhythm that I can maintain for a long distance.

New skills with my hands, pick-and-shovel, chainsaw, weedwacker, paintbrush and hammer. Heavy equipment, risk and responsibility.

Conflicts in my dreams, fear and fighting, hooks, barbs, danger and damage. Facing them, becoming them, the different roles and meanings, as gateways to the hurts in my heart. Hurts from when I was too small to speak, hurts that even now sometimes keep me silent when I would want to speak up for myself.

After BKs, with the group experience, they were still there. And I can be thankful to have been able to spend the years working on them. 283 entries in my computer's "dream" directory!

Still the hurts are there, I am a wounded healer, sometimes the emphasis on wounded, sometimes on healing. The best is in times of fun, to let myself out. To trust my intuition, not to second-guess and suppress myself into a mechanical robot-human.

I could wish for more, there could always be more. To be like others who are not crippled like I am. Who do not question themselves, who do not live in fear and self-doubt.

But that is not all that I am, and I can feel it.

After twenty years, I have survived my ups and down. Even thrived. What have I missed saying? Is there something in the silence?

Sometimes after a few hours' hard work, to relax with my work companion enjoying a fresh mango, or loquats, or a beer. There is no greater contentment than simply to be in that moment.

Or the feeling of my body in the water, moving through the water, or the unity with creation through drumming, through music, through ecstatic intimacy.

How do doors open? How do we see a new door where before was only a blank wall? When a BK, or even now,  at times I wish there could be a magical incantation for it. I believed there was one. I practiced it for 13 years. It was a raft for those years of my life. Even brought me to meet the wonderful woman who is my wife.

I am grateful to the raft, I am happier to sail, swim, run and fly on my own. This is what it means to be an adult. Not that BKs are not: this is about me and my path.

With greetings and gratitude,

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Re: Still vulnerable after all these years
Reply #3 - 05/02/13 at 02:44:41
Wow Joel, I am blown away.

Your sentence
How do doors open? How do we see a new door where before was only a blank wall? When a BK, or even now,  at times I wish there could be a magical incantation for it. I believed there was one.

reminded me of the scene in Lord of the Rings where the fellowship are trying to open the secret gate to enter the mountain tunnels.

The inscription on the gate had on it "speak friend and enter" so they all assume there is a password or incantation and they spend hours trying this and that.

Eventually Merry, one of the Hobbits who are so important in the story because they are the archetypical small, insignificant, innocent child-like creatures, asks Gandalf "What does it mean by speak, friend, and enter?" Gandalf realises all he has to say is "Friend" in elven-tongue, and sure enough the gateway opens.

That is, what you described elsewhere in that post, through acts and expressions of goodwill, friendship and respect, to others and to self, then gateways to what life is about open of their own accord.

So too dreams. To enter into the underground that is the unconscious needs a friendship & goodwill between the known ego that basks in its own sunshine and unknown or rejected self that dwells in the shadows.

Then as we encounter ourselves, we need to befriend, integrate, bring back into the fold all that was alienated or unresolved.
Years of training and apprentice in Feldenkrais, organizing my spine, limbs and head to work more efficiently together.
Overcoming spasms in back and neckLearning to swim the crawl, not fast, but an easy rhythm that I can maintain for a long distance.
New skills with my hands, pick-and-shovel, chainsaw, weedwacker, paintbrush and hammer. Heavy equipment, risk and responsibility.

I too have discovered satisfaction,  even 'spiritual' insight, through manual tasks, doing tangible jobs with tangible results, enjoying the feeling of sweat down my spine and the "good and tired"  ache of muscles - rather than the "sick & tired" feeling that accompany unrealised ideals or disappointed expectations of others, or endless discussions of those (though a good bitch about something can be cathartic! Who let the dogs out? Woof! Woof!)

Last few weeks have seen the back upstairs balcony, which had rotted, finally replaced and vastly improved - solid timbers, solid concrete sheeted flooring, 3 coats of waterproof membrane (almost like a Rebound Ace tennis court surface!) make a platform overlooking a green valley park and the western sky from where I serenade the trees, birds, possums, moon and stars; a swim on Monday in the warm autumn ocean at a surf beach with not even a shore break - it must have been like that the day Magellan called it "Pacific"; four groups of seniors shown new skills and a whole new world of Internet, online shopping, email and social media, in new courses where I teach at Adult Education community college; assistant coaching my daughter's soccer team; attending my own training two or three times a week doing Buddhist martial art training which is equal parts yoga, physical culture, philosophy, meditation and efficiently hurting (or not, as necessary) those who'd want to hurt you or yours. 

Then there's the day job, housekeeping, communications with friends through things like these forums....

As my mother said so poignantly earlier this year in her last days, bringing a tear to my eye and lump in my throat , after saying how tired she was and ready to die, after a long pause added .... "but, life is so sweet".
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