Saturday, June 25, 2005

Altered States, part 1

One of the earliest homework assignments Laura gave me was one of those sounds-simple, actually-is-hard-as-hell meditative tasks you find in every mystical, magickal, and shamanic tradition. She asked me to try, and I believe it was for two solid weeks (I wasn't as good back then at keeping a spiritual diary), to see only shadows and not the objects casting them.

So I'd be walking around the university campus where I was taking classes at the time, focusing my gaze on the dark, massed speckles of tree leaves on sidewalks, on the oblongs thrown by picnic table umbrellas, on my own cartoonishly stretchy form sliding along beside me. I'd pay attention to the shadows for ten or even fifteen seconds, and then thud back into "normal" consciousness, ignoring shadows in favor of their rightly-proportioned, more "real" twins.

As with L's other favorite exercise of the time--relentlessly quizzing me on whether I was dreaming or awake, asking me to prove it beyond a doubt--I eventually lost some of my sense of the "realness" of objects (and of the waking world), and entered that fertile space where anything can happen.

Of course, once anything did happen, I more often than not thudded back into consensus reality, due to fright or to those early-childhood scripts that keep saying I don't deserve wonderful things (who wrote those damn scripts, anyway??). The process has resembled learning to ride a bike and falling off several times a day for about ten years.

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