My grandmother on my mother's side died of ovarian cancer. When it got really bad she was hospiced at my house by my mother who practices nursing. She took up residence in the dining room which we converted into a makeshift hospital room, complete with a curtain on either end. A white-green curtain. My mother took care of her until the very bitter end. It was horrible to my 10 year old self, and scary. My energetic, beautiful, excessively pious and magical grandmother slowly dying in the dining room. It seemed she stayed there for a year, but it must have only been months, time dilated around the cancer, stretched to infinity. The sound of her coughing, very similar to the sound of her body slowly being reclaimed by her bones. Her skeletal hands holding my mothers while, with a hunched back and a painful expression she walks around or soaks her feet in hot water. She was kind to me until the end, or maybe she just spent most of her time sleeping. We used to eat in the dining room every sunday and for every special occasion, after she died we put the table back the way it was, but we never ate in that room again.
I taught a Qi-Gong class to an age range of 88-102 at a place called Harmony hall for two years. I had a group of about 11 dedicated students show up every saturday morning between 10 and 10:45 am, most could walk only a little so I had to alter the movements I taught so they could practice them while sitting. Most had various specific complaints that I tried to adress though gentle forms and neural flossing.
One man would show up once a month, and after about 10 minutes pretend he got a call on his cellphone, continually grunting into it as he got up and left. Once I feared he would die right there in class as he cried out with either exasperation or pleasure during a shoulder movement, it was hard to tell which. For some reason he kept coming anyway.
The remainder of the class was made up of kindly ladies who were very sweet to me. They would would often ask about my fiance and when I was getting married, or how I was doing in school, as if I was a surrogate grandson. I enjoyed this very much and for this reason I learned their names very quickly, much quicker than any other class I taught. I have difficulty remembering names, but I never forget a face or a student.
One week a new lady showed up to class, she was a recent arrival and brand new resident, having just begun her occupation of room 153 the day before. She was young, maybe 65, only used a walker but sparingly, and seemed in incredibly good spirits. She showed up early that day and sat down. She was wearing a belt across her abdomen to fight its distension, it was swollen in stark contrast to the rest of her body which was quite thin by comparison. I presumed she had cancer. She said as much as we talked, not being particularly specific about where the cancer was. Around her neck, a mala of lapis lazuli. The healer's healer.
The next week this woman returned to Qi-Gong class. She came in with a walker and was completely disorganized. I saw that she was surrounded by a puff of smoke like pigpen from the peanuts gang. Maybe it was from the medication or the pain, or her oncoming demise, it was like looking at someone three quarters of the way out of their body still animating the thing. Her speech made no sense and emerged from her mouth as a croak which was punctuated by wretching noises "BLEH! BLEEEHHH!" as if she was trying to vomit up the beast that now occupied her body and was slowly disintegrating her. Choronzon in the flesh.
Every now and then she would mutter "my healing beads" clutch the lapis lazuli mala around her neck and come back to herself, managing in fits and starts to walk towards a chair and sit in it. Her energy left her and came back like a spinning water wheel. She would fall asleep and wake up and fall asleep and wake up, every time she clutched her beads she would remember where she was and perform the movements we were doing only to be swallowed again a couple of minutes later, returning to oblivion, muttering, wretching then closing her eyes and sleeping.
How quickly this illness took her. And how significant the change. That this could happen to anyone,"OH BUT NOT ME".
I learned the next week that she had shuffled off this mortal coil. The ladies in class were only a little surprised because of how little time she spent at harmony hall. Death happens frequently in their world.
As I write I take breaks to ink. I wrote the previous sentence to remind myself to do just that after I finish my final formal practice of the day. A life of practice and self-directed work seems appealing to me. Almost monastic, driven, focused and steadily persistent like the knight of disks, but with fire and drive like a vein that has been cut and must bleed all the way out. I aim here with all of myself. The practices I started 2 months ago begin to bear fruit.
I started writing a story when I was 11, and because I was very sickly I had a lot of time to work on it. I wanted to write and draw a comic book with everything I had, and every fiber of my being. I wanted to communicate with people in that language because it seemed most appropriate to me. I tried, but didn't feel talented enough, didn't feel like I could draw whatever I wanted. When I was 14 I fell in with a few friends at high school who wanted to draw comics. I wrote and they drew, it failed. I tried again, after I moved, with someone else who drew. It failed again. When I became very ill in 1999 I started writing it again, changing bits of the story and altering the fabric of the world I had created. I wrote and wrote and wrote, but it just was never good enough. I gave up.
The story came back into my head shortly before my 32nd birthday, this year. Now I feel like I can draw anything. I began work 2 weeks ago. I intend to post the first 2 pages next week to fight any lingering doubts. Do you know how many occultists write and/or draw comics?
Before I sat down to write I sat in padmasana and repeated the same 3 sanskrit words in my head over and over for 15 minutes. I aimed for 20 and only got 15. Even after 4 years my thoughts still wander every now again, lost in reverie, I have to bring them back to the mental repetition. My breathing speeds up and becomes shallow and I have to return it to deep and slow.
Before that I laid on the floor for 45 minutes breathing as slowly and deeply as possible without moving, trying as hard as I can not to think of anything. Perhaps this mimicking of death will kick my final fears of it. I've kicked a lot of my fear of the unknown and dying, but some still lingers, especially in the late hours of the night or when I encounter something particularly uncomfortable, or develop an illness that seems particularly severe. My breath improves every day, but sometimes I lose track of it and my mind wanders. I try to keep my awareness at my nostrils and feel it going in and out, but sometimes I even lose that. Sometimes the breath stutters during the exhalation (for some reason, inhaling has always been fine). Sometimes I get so still practicing this way that any sudden noise outside is like a bolt of lightning traveling up my body. Usually I like this because it returns my focus where I intend for it to be, like a Roshi hitting someone who tries to meditate. I started this practice over 2 months ago, I usually lay for 30 minutes.
Directly previous to this I said words and tonally vibrated barbarous names. Allegedly written by a gnostic sometime around the second century, a fragment of which was found and altered by Aleister Crowley and Alan Bennett in the early 1900s and published as "Liber Samekh". I started this practice right before my birthday and usually repeat the same words and vibrations 2-3 times a week.
Before that I drew 4 encircled pentagrams in the air, one for each cardinal direction, and intoned 4 barbarous names of my own devising.
This morning I taught hatha yoga to 3 women, one had been the only student in class for a couple months, the other 2 I just met today. I drew a subconscious picture a couple weeks ago for more students in my classes. I have a need to interact with more people and encounter more bodies. I teach mainly pavanamuktasana movements punctuated by still postures held for a duration. Pavanamuktasana I define as any movement which involves a degree of "neural flossing" or nerve stretching.
I started drawing subconscious pictures several years ago. They have since mutated and found their way into whatever I am drawing, all of it is sigils. I don't burn the ones I take enough time with to forget their meaning. The conscious mind will usually interfere with intention because the concious mind is the only place where things "can't" happen. Excessive crosshatching as meditation, after a while it all becomes meditation (or at least concentration). The callous on my right ring finger gets bigger and bigger. I draw everyday now. Finally.
Yesterday I taught my favorite Qi-Gong form to old friends and new people, reaching a class total of 9 for the first time since I started it in February of this year. Using these current trends as divinatory material makes the future seem promising, but I try very hard not to obsess about what will happen and try instead to stay here, right now.
I work with children during the week at a summer camp. I enjoy interacting with them and think to myself "time to go to the zendo" every morning right before the 20 minutes I sit in padmasana and repeat a mantra. Children and "enlightened" zen masters have many startling similarities. Their perception of the world is more direct in most cases because it doesn't run through so many filters of memory and habit. They are also very impulsive and have limited motor skill like a drunk.
I started a yoga club at summer camp and I get about 7 kids, and sometimes another counselor, twice a week for an hour. Surprisingly most of the kids with me are boys. I teach qi-gong to a couple of them at recess. I found i could watch the kids and practice at the same time and very soon I had them asking what I was doing and joining me.
The other day after teaching a small boy Nadi Shodanam for the first time, he looked at me in the eye and said, pointing to the space right between his eyebrows, "No matter which one you breath in [referring to his nostrils] the breath goes here". A moment of satori followed for me. Just like the previous week when I asked a small girl "what is true?" to which she replied, "an elephant takes water into its nose and shoots it out". When you begin to look for significance in everything, you find it.
Right now my body feels sore from my weekly practices and maybe a little bit from the change in pressure outside before the rain. As I look out the window I see the first few drops of rain as the pressure changes again, and I become free from pain.
Why do these things? To alter conciousness in a precise and predictable manner. Why alter conciousness? To find what is under thought. All that we think or have ever thought affects how we see, how we interact, how we speak, our habits and our patterns. Some thoughts repeat and repeat and repeat. Others repeat for a time and break away never to arise again. Some don't even begin. This happens all on its own. What happens if you choose which thoughts repeat, which ones break away and disappear? You take the agency back, and get closer to knowing what lies beneath. The lookout changes. It doesn't matter who the thinker "is". The process of looking and searching and crumbling feels far more significant and far more important to me.
Right now I feel hungry, my stomach growls. I ate very little today, just a wonderful omelet.
Current small desires:
A flat, round piece of polished obsidian, as large or a little larger than my palm to stare into for 20 minutes at a time (to start) trying hard not to blink
A software that creates noise and static of a sufficient depth and volume to play during my laying down practice. Something I can use to engineer my experience by creating my own noise.
A website design for a drawing portfolio, a link to this blog and place to put pages of sequential art upon their completion. I feel a need to have a home in this way, so people know where to go if they show interest in my work. This last one feels embarrassingly vain to me.