Breathing practices

Update on energy work

I've been continuing to do the fusion of the five elements practice each day. I've been noticing both physical and energetic results. Tighter stomach, and more physical energy, and a sense of greater well-being, as well as more energy to work with. What I like about this technique is the emphasis on the integration of physical awareness with the energy work. It's more of a centering and grounding technique, but the centering and grounding occur in the body and via the cycle that is created by doing this technique. I'll soon be back to where I was with it before, but without all the energetic baggage. In fact, that's probably what I note most...no blockages, more flow, more focus, and more awareness. I'm looking forward to integrating the Kan and Li work with this technique. I've got a feeling that all I will be integrating will prove really useful from both an inner alchemical methodology and also toward becoming more healthy.

Changes in my energy since the elemental switchover

Since I switched over from the element of Emptiness to the element of Time, its been interesting to track other people's awareness of that switchover, as well as starting up a new program of energy work. When I was doing the Emptiness working, my energy was heavy, depressive...I was busy working through all of the blockages and issues in my life. Toward the end of the emptiness working, my energy began to change. I was cleaned out. When I switched to Time, my energy felt different. Different people told me I felt lighter, and I was also a lot happier (and have been since then). Lupa said she noticed a webbing of sorts emanating from me. At the same time, because the emptiness working had cleaned me out, it'd also cleaned up a lot of energetic structures in me. The Spider Goddess of Time told me that I needed to stop using the old daily meditations I was doing and switch to the Elemental fusion system that Mantak Chia has written about. The old practices worked with an energetic body that had been there prior to the culmination of the emptiness working, but with my energy changes so much, I needed to develop a new practice that accounted for that.

For the last couple weeks I've been working the elemental fusion technique each day. I'd tried it before and used it for a little while, but the difference now is that I really don't have any energetic blockages getting in my way. The energy moves differently, but I also realize why the Spider Goddess wants me to bring this technique into my daily workings...it'll keep me cleaned out, because that is its purpose, while also helping me build a new and different energetic body.

Energetically I feel different...I feel so clean. There's no weight on me, no feeling of emptiness that comes across in a way that is hurtful to me. I can still feel some emptiness, but I'm at peace with it. The elemental fusion work, in the meantime, will allow me to continue with my inner alchemical workings, without the baggage that was previously attached.

Element Emptiness Month 9: Craving and Desire pt. 2

6-19-09 I'm feeling out of sorts today. This is one of those days where there's missed connections, where everything feels slightly off. It's a day where I feel the craving to be filled a bit more sharply. A day where nothing I do really satisfies and underlying everything is a feeling of loss. I hate those days. They don't happen often, but when they do occur, no matter what I do that day, it feels like nothing got done. Sad though, measuring the day by what got done or didn't...yet I do it all the time. There can be benefits for doing it, but is that really the only way I find worth? 6-22-09 Envy is one of the shadows of desire. Feeling envy is like feeling pointy, sharp knives being stabbed into you...Each stab is a fresh reminder of the pain you feel. Just one of those nights.

6-27-09 I'm alone this weekend. My wife is off with her boyfriend and I have our home to myself. In someways, though, I've felt fairly alone lately, because the emptiness working is intensifying and I've also been letting go of a lot of my cravings when it comes to wanting other relationships...letting go, but also feeling.

It is the act of feeling which allows for the letting go. I've never realized as much as I do now how much I sometimes have found value in myself through the relationships I have with others. I think some of that can be healthy, but can get unhealthy if the value is only because of those relationships.

I want to be involved with someone new...be dating someone...and I acknowledge that. But I also accept that if and when it happens, it will occur because it's the right moment...which doesn't mean I'm not looking...just means I'm less frantic about it.

And more appreciative of the relationships I do have with wife, family, and friends. It's wonderful to have people hwo genuinely care about you and love you and want you in their lives. I appreciate that more than ever because having those relationships is what's helping me get through this emptiness working.

6-29-09 As I've continued doing this emptiness working, something which has come into my consciousness more has been an awareness of other peoples' emptiness. It's consequently made me more aware of what I am comfortable dealing with and what I'm not comfortable dealing with. I think every person has some degree of emptiness in them and I think it's not unhealthy to have it, but how it's expressed can be unhealthy. When I'm around someone and that person wants something from me, in a way that tries to fill that person up, I know it's a case of trying to fill up the emptiness. In some ways, it's a kind of psychic vampirism. And until people get comfortable with their emptiness, and understand how they are reacting to it, it will cause them to act out in ways that involve trying to fill themselves up. I know this, because it's been that way with me, most of my life. Only recently have I come to a place where I'm not acting out that emptiness...but because I'm aware of that emptiness in myself, I can also feel it in others, and see it in the behaviors they exhibit.

7-01-09 Sometimes an event will occur, which triggers issues for me from the past. Frex I give someone a gift and that person doesn't exhibit as much enthusiasm or interest in said gift as I hoped (expected) s/he would. On the one hand, Lupa's pointed out that I tend to build up some expectations as to how someone will act when I give that person something. And there's some truth to her observation. I do sometimes build up an expectation on how I think someone will act or react to something I do and that can lead to disappointment and isn't fair to the person either.

But in thinking about it, the root of this issue is in feelings of neglect. My honest feeling wasn't so much disappointment, as a feeling of neglect, of not being noticeable enough, worth enough to be shown consideration to. And yes that issue can lead to high expectations, but when I trace it back to myp ast, I trace it to my childhood, where I was essentially an indentured servant. I was expected to do a lot of chores, and was rarely, if at all thanked for what I did. In fact, I was usually only acknowledged when I did something bad. Everything good I did wasn't worth noticing or paying attention to. And sometimes...I still feel that way. Now, that isn't the fault of anyone I know. It's my issue to deal wih, my issue to own, but part of owning it is acknowledging it, being honest about it, and recognizing what triggers it. And also recognizing what I need to do, to decondition that trigger.

7-3-09 I recently added a new business to my entrepreneurial gig and in the midst of doing that got some real gems for my emptiness work: Humility is believing in yourself and in abundance. It's believing you have everything in the world to offer and also believing that everyone else does too." It's an interesting definition of humility, and one I find compelling. And what does it have to with emptiness...Simply recognizing that everyone does have something to offer. It's a shift in thinking that focuses on recognizing the value that each person has. And for me, this is a shift which has been occurring for a while, since the advent of my entreprenurial focus. And when I've come to this view, it's changed some of my feelings about emptiness, because I recognize more and more what it has to offer to me as well.

7-03-09 There are times where I still find myself struggling with being completely open and upfront. I want to be open...but there's also that part, which doesn't want to be open. That part is the part that learned early on that being open was a bad idea, that it would be used against me.  And rationally I know I'm not in that place anymore...I'm not that child anymore, but emotionally my issues with the authority that someone could have with my life is one that makes me feel uneasy. That uneasiness brings its own contributions to how I handle situations where I want something, but might have to get someone else's approval to get it. Sometimes I really have to muster up my courage to bring something up, because of that uneasiness. It's gotten easier to deal with over the last year, but its still something I have trouble with occasionally.

7-06-09 This month so far has been quieter than all the other months. Sure some stuff has come up, and there is still an awareness of emptiness, but at the same time there's also a quietness, a kind of calmness...and not the calmness before a storm, but more like a calm centeredness of knowing myself and knowing emptiness and feeling collected and grounded with both.

7-10-09 Sometimes I will catch myself in a stream of thought that is focused around desire and in that moment acknowledge just how much that desire occupies my thoughts. It's useful for recognizing just how much I want something, as well as asking whether that focus is really helping or not. It's showing me as well the place desire has in my internal landscape, and now I'm learning how to sit with that comfortably. It's not always easy, because sometimes I feel overwhelmed by how much my thoughts can sometimes go toward desire, but learning to sit with it is teaching me a lot about how I feel when I feel desire and can't act on it. I'm seeing what underlies desire, which sometimes is a feeling of emptiness and fear, and sometimes is a desire to connect.

Some further realizations. Some of my desires deal with taboo, the desire to do something forbidden. When I thought about that and traced it back, I found the root, of course, in my past. Because I lived in a very disciplined household, one of the things I did to get power in those situations was to go behind my parents back and to lie to them. If I could get away with something, I took it as a triumph. And I see that same behavior in my life, over and over again through my twenties, and to a lesser degree my early thirties. Never mind that the root situation is gone...there's still this desire to do something forbidden, and the pleasure of getting away with it. I'm not acting on that desire now, but it doesn't mean I don't have fantasies about it. Today when I had such a fantasy, I spent a lot of time thinking about it, sitting with it, and figuring out where the desire originated from. And having done that, I can say that it makes a lot of sense to me, but it's no longer needed. I'm not in a situation where I'm dealing with some authority over me restricting me from enjoying what I like. I'm in a situation where I have that authority and ultimately responsibility for what I do. Needless to say, that gives me a lot of incentive to continue working on this stuff, instead of acting out on it.

7-12-09 I've been re-reading Epstein's works on Buddhism and psychotherapy. Seemed appropriate for the emptiness working. In one of the books, Epstein talks about realizing that the pain, anger etc., isn't something you can remove, that instead you've got to sit with it and work through it. The same is true of desire. You can't remove it, and you do need to work through it. It's something which needs to be experienced, but in a manner that allows you to know that you are truly at peace with how it makes you feel. You can't eliminate the emptiness, the desire, the anger, because it's something which is part of you. We treat it as the other, because we don't want to deal with it. But it's only in sitting with those feelings, that we can find peace with them.

7-13-09 I am simultaneously comfortable and uncomfortable with my desires. I am comfortable in the moments I express them, but uncomfortable with having them...and it's fairly easy for me to figure out the root and where it all came from...but sitting with it and being present with is something else I'm still learning to do.

7-17-09 Sitting with my desires today, I realized just how important it is sit with them and be silent in that sitting. And by silence, I don't mean not talking, so much as I mean really listening. I still don't feel any more comfortable with it, but I do feel like I'm finally ready to listen as opposed to frenetically acting.

Share

Elemental Emptiness Month 6: The Hermit and Fear

3-15-09 I'm in a foul mood tonight. I essentially got told by my spirit guide for this working (one of them anyway) that I have to step up and face my fear of being alone, and accept the very real possibility that I may always be alone. He feels that this fear and the desire that goes along with it is holding me back from a lot of things I need to accomplish. I can't even disagree with him, because I see his point. He's right...this fear is holding me back and he's pointed out that I need to work with the Hermit to deal with this fear...and I don't want to. I feel really resistant and angry, because I just don't want to go into this space. Yet I know I need to. This fear goes hand in hand with my fear of being consumed by my emptiness. I deal with one, I find the way to deal with the other. And I will do this, but tonight I just feel...angry, vulnerable, and yes, very, very alone. In some ways I'm finally realizing just how much some of my desires have lead me to attachments, which have held me back...and I feel pathetic for letting it happen...yet also realize a profound point I read just yesterday. "Thou are but mortal" I am mortal...I have my weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and attachments. And that's part of the human experience...accepting that what you may want, etc., may never ultimately occur. It's a place I don't want to go, but I have to.

3-16-09 I started work with the hermit today and he wasn't pulling any punches with me. He spoke with me about my fear of being alone and showed me the connection to my fear of being consumed by emptiness. Then he pointed out that a big reason the Sith mythos had come up a lot in this working is because of that fear, reminding me that the character of Darth Vader had his fall because of his inability to accept his fear, while acting on it. He asked me at the end if it would really be so bad if I did realize that I am alone in certain fundamental respects. I have no answer for him, but I do acknowledge just how much that fear has fed into expectations I have about relationships I get involved with.

3-17-09 Today the Hermit showed me how my fear of being alone links into the fear of being consumed by emptiness. The latter fear is fear of the loss of ego/individual personality, but the former fear is linked to the latter in the sense of not having anyone to connect with, in order to anchor that identity and also to stave off the emptiness. Convoluted? Yes...but interesting as well, because it does show how one fear can be linked to another or as Tsultrim Allione put it, how one demon is a relative to another demon.

3-19-09 Last couple of days has been crazy busy, so I ended up jotting down keywords to remember for this part of the post...On Tuesday, in therapy, got into a really long conversation, which essentially boiled down to me recognizing some very fundamental issues about my feeling of disconnect with Lupa. What I realized is that sometimes I don't really feel she connects with me on an empathic level. And to be fair to her, I know sometimes I don't, because I'll get caught up in trying to find a solution as opposed to actually listening to her and what she has to say about a situation...as well as showing empathy for what she is feeling in that moment. And this issue extends fairly deep into our communication with each other. Sometimes she feels that when I tell her about some technique or experiment I'm doing, that there's an expectation that I will want her to do it, while I actually simply want to tell her about something I find interesting. Realizing this, as well as realizing how this disconnect has occurred in other areas of our communication has given me a better perspective on how to handle communication on my end. I've caught myself several times starting to offer solutions, and stopped myself from doing it, realizing that I wasn't listening to her like I really needed to. So I'm going to work on being more empathetic in my listening with her and with others.

The other day, after a date, I felt a large sense of emptiness. I'd had a wonderful time, really enjoyed my date, but I felt empty afterwards and I felt unsatisfied on some deep level, and I realized it had nothing to do with the date and everything to do with how I've approached relationships. And in fact the Hermit and Xah agree.

I've been asked by the Hermit whether I really know what enough means when it comes to relationships. What, he asks, is enough for you? When do you feel satisfaction with the relationships that you have? When do you stop seeking and start appreciating? And my answer is that I've never really stopped at all. I'm terrified I'll miss out on an opportunity with someone if I do say enough...and yet I am missing out on my relationships with the people I do have in my life. I am missing out on those moments of intimacy and connection, because I am so busy trying to attain some "ideal" relationship, some perfect union...and never really stopping to see if I could already have it, or better yet, simply acknowledge what I do have and feel grateful for having it. If you always seek and never stop, what do you really have in the end? That's what the hermit has asked...Both he and Xah point out that my fear is stopping me from enjoying a lot of my life as much as I could and also stopping me from getting to a lot of pursuits I could be doing, because of how much energy I'm putting into searching for some ideal magical partner.  Today a friend pointed out that if I stop looking and just be still, maybe what I've looked for so much will finally manifest. And maybe it will, but whether or not it does, I'd like to actually stop and appreciate what I do have...

3-21-09 The last few days I've been watching/observing/monitoring my awareness and I've recognized that sometimes I get really caught up in seeking, in trying to find a person, so caught up in it that I don't enjoy the moment I'm in. Catching myself in this behavior is unpleasant...It's not a behavior I care for, but consciously acknowledging that part of me is always trying to find someone to fill me up is important. The hermit tells me that this is where so much of my energy has gone, and I see it, in my awareness of this seeking on my part. I've always tried to find something in someone else to fill me up, to somehow complete me, yet nothing I've found has ever done that.  I'm reminded of a scene in one of my favorite fantasy books, where the character has just killed his mistress and his cousin who was sleeping with his mistress, after discovering that they were sabotaging his company. He is called out by his best friend on the fact that he finds yet another woman desirable. That friend tells him that he's really just trying to fill up something in himself with those people, but not looking within himself at all. And that sounds like me (sans the killing part). I've looked and looked and looked...I've caught myself wondering if such and such person was going to be the magical partner I was always looking for...and I've neglected in the process some of the most important relationships I do have.

It's hard to admit that, and hard to face the fact that some part of me has been so desperate to fill myself up with something and that I've looked for so long to other people, put so much of my energy to finding someone, without really asking myself why or what it was accomplishing. Recognizing this is the first step and recognizing how it's tied to my fear of being alone and being consumed is also part of why I've looked so much, to find someone who somehow takes all that fear away. But no one can do that for me, except me. It's time to stop looking so much and start appreciating what I have and also find in myself, the resources I need to handle my fears and the emptiness.

3-22-09 The Hermit is the seeker, which is ironic I guess, but in a ways perhaps not, because who better to know when to stop seeking than the seeker? Well he seems to know that anyway. I'm still learning that I don't have to continue seeking, that it might be unhealthy to do so. I'm also learning to let go of the past...because what was can sometimes hide what could be.

3-24-09 Therapy today provided useful for externalizing some of my internal stream when it comes to how I deal with romantic possibilities. The fact is I've devoted a fair amount of mental and emotional energy to finding the idealized one...right down to fantasizing what it would be like to date this person or that person. I've caught myself doing it a few different times this week and when I catch myself doing it, I don't punish myself, but instead ask what it is I really see in that person that makes me think whatever it is I'm thinking. And usually it's illusion of some kind or another...little hopes flittering about, but not with much in the way of substance.

The other thing I've been realizing is that I can give myself permission not to have sex or be involved with someone just because that person feels interested in me. I haven't always realized that...or rather I haven't always had good boundaries about it. I've felt that if someone showed interest, I should show interest in return, even if I wasn't really interested, because maybe I'd miss out on an opportunity or maybe this person would be the idealized lover. Needless to say, this kind of choice or behavior on my part isn't exactly healthy and has hurt some people as well as myself in the past. So realizing I can say no, realizing I don't actually have to sleep with someone is really powerful. I can say no...I can choose to let an opportunity go by and better yet I can simply appreciate the person as a friend, instead of having to make her into a lover.

3-27-09 "You live too much in the future" I was told that last night by the Moon Goddess. In meditating with the Hermit today there was some agreement, a noting that looking toward the future so much is its own sign of seeking for something to fill me up, and again the question, "When is what you have in this moment enough? When do you know you have enough?" I'm left with no answer, because I don't know. I just realize that both the Moon Goddess and the Hermit are right. I do spend a lot of time in the future, as opposed to just appreciating the present. And I recognize how much that behavior has created my seeking, as well as feeding my fears when it comes to being alone. I realize that part of me seeks stability, seeks some kind of grounding in the relationships I have with people, but also attempts to fill this void up within me with those relationships, while not actually standing still and being present in the moment. I suppose I always looked to the future, because in the circumstances I grew up in, I always wanted to get away from the present I lived in. Now though, I don't know if that's so wise or helpful...when is this moment enough?

3-29-09 We went hiking today and while we were hiking I experienced my fear physically. I could feel myself shaking a bit. I felt this fear and I realized it was the experience of the fear I feel on a really deep level. This fear pervaded every part of me and when I felt it, I recognized it as that fear of being alone. I also recognized it as what has motivated me so often to focus on the future, instead of living in the present. That fear has pushed me to try and stabilize my life with relationships or plans that allow me to predict and control the future and consequently the present as much as possible. The key word is control. I'm sure I'm not alone in doing this, but I don't think it's been so good for me or others. I reflected today that marrying Lupa was motivated by fear of her leaving. By marrying her, I made her a more stable part of my life, insured she'd stay in it longer. I didn't live, in the moment, with her. I didn't experience the present as it actually occurred, because I was so busy trying to plan it, and project my expectations into it. When I realize all this, I don't try to judge or blame myself. There's not much use to doing that. Instead, today I felt the fear and I talked about it with Lupa and I acknowledged how I felt about spending so much time planning my future out so much. I don't like how it makes me feel. I don't like planning my relationships so much. So I'm going to do my best to live in the moment, and accept it for what it is.

4-01-09 Therapy, yesterday, proved helpful in further exploring the fear I mentioned above. A lot of what I came to realize/process is that the fear arising out of my early childhood no longer serves a purpose in my life and actually distracts me from being present with myself or anyone else. I catch myself daydream, flitting into the future a lot. It's startling to recognize just how regular this activity is...and underneath recognize the fear that informs it. My fear doesn't need to define my relationships, if I don't want it to, or me. In therapy I discussed how I've been recognizing this fear of being alone, of being consumed by my emptiness as something which has made me plan out so much of my life in order to create an illusion of safety and control for myself. It's terrifying to give up that safety and control, but exhilarating as well, because if I'm not holding on so tight, then perhaps in letting go I can really start to appreciate the opportunities and situations for what they really are, genuine moments of being present and alive and with myself and anyone else I happen to be with in that moment.

4-3-09 This seems to be rather accurate about my life, for the moment. Or rather it's another message which correlates with messages from other independent sources. Then again...if you look for a pattern long enough, you're bound to find or create one. And this is a bit new agey.

4-5-09 As I continue to sit with my fear this month, I find the emptiness less harsh than before. By burrowing down so far into my own issues, and into the feelings which inform those issues, I've also set free a lot of the emptiness within me. There are days where I can barely feel it, where it's just a ghost of how it usually feels. I don't pretend that the emptiness will go away, but I will admit, not feeling it as much is something I wouldn't mind continuing to feel. Yes I wish to be more comfortable with it, to accept it for what it is. Sometimes I'm not sure if I can do that, and other times I think I can.

4-6-09 And then there are days, like today where I feel really empty, hungry, desperate...where it seems like nothing I do makes that emptiness feel better. The hermit and I talked about this quite a bit in my meditation today and he noted that it felt as if I was trying to run from my emptiness, by doing any and everything I could not to feel it. He's absolutely right...yet nothing I do takes it away, and in some ways it only deepens it. I feel like a shriveled husk today.

4-7-09 In therapy, we ended up getting into an interesting discussion about the history of some my methods for dealing with feelings of emptiness. Aside from coming away with an appreciation of just how much I have changed as a person, as well as recognizing that I have developed healthier methods for encountering my emptiness, I also realized I am at the right place, right now, to work with the fear I feel when it comes to sitting with my emptiness. I'm encountering layers of progression in this work...Obsession to surrender, anger to compassion, fear to whatever it may or may not lead to. There is evolution here, even if at times I have trouble recognizing it.

4-10-09 In therapy, something we reviewed was some of my sexual behaviors and while I've already in some ways realized this, the following clicked into place in a way it previously hadn't: I use sex to escape my emptiness. Not all the time, but it is a way for me to establish a sense of identity, or rather reaffirm that identity, whilst also feeding my emptiness something which isn't me. I know I've said that one way or another before, but it made more sense this latest time...it's realizing that just like when I used to be a cutter, where I'd use pain to deal with my emptiness, so too has sex been another way to deal with that feeling and fear of emptiness. Not the best way, not necessarily healthy, but what I developed as a way to cope with that fear. But I don't want to do that anymore and so I'm continuing to use the feed your demon technique to help me process how I relate to my emptiness and my fear. Here's a quote relevant to this topic from Toward a Psychology of Awakening by John Welwood:

"When we have shut fear out of our awareness, it remains frozen deep within the body, manifesting as background anxiety, tension, worry, insecurity...Seeking a "fix" cannot lead to genuine healing because it keeps us in the same mind-set - wanting our experience to be other than it is - that created our dis-ease in the first place. Our natural healing resources become mobilized only when we see and feel the truth - the untold suffering we cause ourselves and others by rejecting our experience, thus shutting down our capacity to be fully present. When we recognize this, our dis-ease starts to become conscious suffering. As our suffering becomes more conscious, it starts to awaken out desire and will to live in a new way."

I would have to say that this accurately represents my process right now. I am realizing that the "fix" is just causing me and others more suffering, and also realize that to truly relax into my being involves actually experiencing the emptiness, the fear, the suffering and being present with it as it is, so that I can discover how to live in a new way where I'm more aligned with the harmony of my life. Needless to say reading this just makes some of my experiences sink in even more, for recognizing just how much I've run away from feeling my fear and emptiness, or tried to, and ended up suffering more for doing so.

4-11-09 Sometimes it really does take some hard realizations to make you realize that what you are doing doesn't work. A moment of clarity arrives and you are present in that moment and you realize: This behavior is helping me, it's hurting me and everyone around me. It's just deepening the suffering I already feel. That's what this month feels like for me. In another way, I feel like I am all consuming being that offers nothing back to anyone, beyond my own detritus and rot. I'm so busy consuming, so busy trying to fill something up, I haven't stopped to feel what it's doing to me or note how it's killing me. In Toward a Psychology of Awakening, Welwood essentially says that you don't really become conscious until you actually feel what you're stopping yourself from feeling, and allow yourself to experience for what it is, instead of how you interpret it.

4-12-09 I've always found it amazing how I read exactly what I need to read, as it applies to this amazing journey I'm on, called Taylor's life. As I continue reading Toward a Psychology of Awakening, I've come across some more information about emptiness and all this work I'm doing which tells me that I'm definitely on the right path for me. Welwood says,

What shuts down the heart more than anything is not letting ourselves have our own experience, but instead judging it, criticizing it, or trying to make it different from what it is. We often imagine there is something wrong with us if we feel angry, needy, dependent, lonely, confused, sad, or scared. We place conditions on ourselves and our experience.

He says of Emptiness:

Emptiness is a term that points to the ungraspable, unfathomable nature of everything. Nothing can be grasped a solid object that will provide enduring, unshakable meaning, satisfaction, or security. Nothing is ever what we expect, hope, or believe it to be...Emptiness-the ungraspable, open-ended nature of reality-need not be depressing. For it is what allows life to keep creating and recreating itself anew each moment. And this makes creativity, expansiveness, growth, and real wisdom possible.

When I read both of these quotes, I recognize several things. First, I recognize how resistant I am to feeling emotions such as fear or sadness. Not that I can't feel them, but that I have resisted feeling them so much. Second, I recognize that my perception of emptiness has sometimes been exactly what has created so many problems for me. My fear of being consumed, instead of really being acknowledged by being felt, has been run from, abstractly approached, and other suppressed. So today, in meditation I did something I've never really done before. I allowed myself to fully feel my fear and just feel it, without judgment, without interpretation, without running. And eventually I realized it wasn't that scary to feel, and that by feeling it, I might just find some closure on some of the wounds I've finally been facing in this year's work.

4-13-09 Today when I started to distract myself from feeling my fear, I stopped and asked myself to just feel it. And it feels like a heavy weight in my stomach. Feeling it was feeling a sensation of turbulence, of dis-ease...Yet as I sat with it, the turbulence did diminish a bit. I just held my space instead of trying to find a way out.

4-15-09 I did some breathing meditation tonight and felt it begin to dissolve some of the fear, loosening up structures of tension in my body. It was a subtle, and deep feeling. I also did some thinking today about the relationships I've been involved in for the last six or so months, i.e. the potential lovers and such and realized that on some level or another I saw some patterns, which made me wonder why I'm attracting those patterns into my life, as well as what I can do to stop attracting those patterns in my life. I looked in myself and acknowledged that my insecurities are as much an attractor to certain people as the rest of me is. Continuing to work on and work through my insecurities is already yielding some good changes in my life, so this is just another layer to add to that.

4-17-09 This month was probably the hardest month of this working. Today the moon goddess and I talked. We'd had an argument, and we ended up working it out, but in the course of that I talked about how for a very long time I've operated out of a scarcity mentality. And at the root of that scarcity mentality is my fear. This month, for me, has been about realizing just how much my fear has informed my actions and choices, when it comes to romantic relationships, business, and life in general. This month I dealt with fear in a variety of forms: competition, jealousy, and being consumed by my emptiness. And I realized I made a commitment (actually a number of them, but this one was fairly recent) from a place of fear, from trying to secure a stabilized identity/future/whatever...but in the process missing out on living in the moment. My fear has motivated me to rush into and through relationships instead of just experiencing them in the moment...and I know that I need to slow down and live in the moment.

Living in the moment means embracing my fear, actually feeling it, living it...accepting it. Today, instead of trying to run away from my fear, I just sat with it, felt it in my body, and let it express itself. And I was scared, terrified...and free. I'm going to keep working with fear for a little while. It's only the last few days I've tried to be present with it, so I'll keep trying...see what happens...and know that all this shadow work is leading me to a better place...I'm rotting...but I'm also being refined.

energy work and meditation update

I've been continuing to read up on and pursue the Qigong energy work and breathing practices I've been learning. I'm contemplating adding Tai chi to the mix, and not the Tai chi you think of being done in the park , but the traditional martial form of Tai chi, which while still soft, emphasizes the use of the five elements as part of the martial form of Tai chi. One of the local members of GEM is connected to someone who teaches it from that perspective. For me, it would be an excellent opportunity to start incorporating moving meditation and martial arts into my meditation practice, which has intensified even more as I continue my emptiness working. The moving meditation would add an additional layer to my work, as it would incorporate my body even more into the meditation, while also challenging me to get more into the integral energetic workings that I'm starting to experience more of, as I continue the current meditative work. As is, a lot of the energy work I'm doing is continuing to allow me to get to the core of my emotional responses, reactions, and triggers. The work isn't easy (as you'll get to read tomorrow evening when I post my latest elemental emptiness update), but it is worthwhile. I feel more at peace with myself and others than I ever have, and whilst I am still very much experiencing some tumultuous times, I am also finding my responses are changing, which makes those times easier to navigate through.

I have to admit I haven't posted as much lately about my spiritual work as I have in the past. Then again, I also haven't been writing nearly as many articles or a book on my spiritual work either.  Some of this is because I'm going through an intensely personal time of change and development in my spiritual path. Some of it is simply because I'm in the process of researching a really big project...Every time I think I've taken a step forward, I find more information I need to research and experiment with (but there is an end in sight). Some of it is reflective of changes occurring in my life, specifically my focus on building and running my own business and pursuing being self-employed full-time, and some of it is simply experiencing the moment without having to catalogue it as much.

Still, I will say that I am actively working on a co-written project with Bill Whitcomb, have another possible co-written project with Vince Stevens, which is just about finished with the outlining stage, and yes I also do have my big solo project which is still being heavily researched (and will, when finished, providing what I hope will be a radical change in how people understand magic). And in the meantime, you've got this blog with the occasional updates I offer.

Elemental Emptiness Work Month 5: Compassion pt. 2

2-16-09 I've been gone for a few days at pantheacon and a lot happened while there. On the flight in, I was reading Relaxing into your Being by B. K. Frantzis and in it he was discussing how meditation work initially is like a glass of water with red dust in it. The red dust swirls a lot, but as the water smooths itself, the dust settles and eventually you can see how it is separate from the water...likewise as you meditate and work through your issues those issues can be separated from the water of your consciousness. Then the true work comes, namely dissolving the dust, dissolving the issues, until all that is left it emptiness, consciousness, the Tao. As I was reading that, I realized very intimately that my experience with emptiness right now is really my experience with my dysfunctions and distortions of emptiness. It isn't the Tao, but my fear. There's still some red dust in the water, but not as much as four and some change years ago. I became aware of how far I have to go, but also appreciative that I could realize that and also that someday I will come back to the element of emptiness for a different experience of it, but that my current experience is healthy and useful for what I need it to be. I do feel like I'm achieving a healthier relationship with emptiness and this realization is part of that healthier relationship, but I also realized something equally important: I want to discover the Tao.

While at Pantheacon, I also realized something very significant about my experience there. It used to be that when I went to conventions or fetish events that I felt really empty and wanted to fill that up with people I saw. I'd feel desperate and wonder if this person or that person would somehow complete me. This con and also the fet events I went to, I haven't felt that compulsion. I did feel attracted to several people, and I realized what attracted me to those people is a desire to really get to know them as people and explore the energy and relationship between us. Much different from wanting to fill my emptiness up. And I didn't feel a particular need to act on those attractions, but to instead just observe, recognize, and release.

Yesterday I got into a discussion about vulnerability and a realization I had out of that is that I really don't like being vulnerable. Even when  I write about it, in some ways I am distancing myself from it. Last night's interaction and some difficult emails from last week has really brought this to my attention in a needed way. And I recognize that no one likes to feel vulnerable...but still it just really hit me how much that does scare me sometimes because of my past and everything that happened to me. Having grown up in a situation where my vulnerabilities were preyed on a lot, it's not a surprise I really draw back into a shell when I feel vulnerable. It's something I'll work with more, now that I'm aware of it.

2-18-09 I tried working with my vulnerability further by being very open with someone I feel vulnerable with. It was scary to be very open with this person, but also empowering. And what was so empowering was that my focus was on the relationship and connection I have with this power, instead of being focused on trying to fill something up within me. I don't feel driven to try and fill something up...I can actually appreciate the moment and the connection. That's something I can genuinely say I've rarely felt before.

2-19-09 I find myself in situations where I am able to sit with myself and with someone else with genuine compassion for the suffering that person is feeling, with less judgment than I would've used in the past. That's not to say I don't feel judgment at all, but I'm much more aware of how much of that judgment is really rooting judging myself and then projecting that judgment on other people. A recent situation really clarified that for me, because I could actually see how I've judged others and how it may have made them feel, because of how I felt being judged. It brings it real close to home, when suddenly you feel put in a corner. You see how you may have done that to other people as well and then you ask, "Where does this really come from?" And speaking only for myself, I can safely say that my judgments of others does come from judging myself. So how much of my judgment is really accurate at all, when the root of it is based in my own feelings toward myself? If I'm going to judge anything, may I judge the actions and motives, but not the actual person. May I feel compassion for the suffering of that person and yet may I also respect myself enough to not allow that suffering to harm myself or others I love. And may I also continue to recognize and work with my own suffering so that I find resolution with it and also don't inflict it on other people.

2-20-09 Some really interesting insights came up in therapy, which make a lot of sense in regards to anger and how I handle vulnerability. Anger is my "safe emotion" It's the emotion I switch to when I feel uncomfortable with a situation. Makes complete sense to me, because it's an emotion about defense and protection, even as it's also an emotion about judgment and criticism. It's an emotion I've used to judge myself, without really communicating with myself. It's masked my vulnerability from me, even if it hasn't masked it from anyone else. As I've continued working with my relationship to anger, I've gradually uncovered the feeling of vulnerability underneath the anger and realized how much I've avoided feeling vulnerable, in order to avoid being hurt by someone. Question is whether I've really avoided being hurt. I don't think I have. If anything I've just avoided acknowledging how my vulnerability really makes me feel.

Thankfully as I've continued to get more comfortable with my anger, it's also me to work on being more comfortable with my feelings of vulnerability. I'm still pretty uncomfortable with feeling vulnerable. It's not something I'm used to admitting to myself, but I think the next step of my emptiness working will involve learning to sit with those feelings of vulnerability, while I also continue to improve my relationship with anger. Already I've gotten a bit better about actually expressing the emotion underlying my anger, so that instead of just yelling or bitching about something, I actually explain what the underlying emotion is. Small steps, but definitely helpful for making me feel a bit more comfortable with actually feeling my vulnerability and expressing it.

2-21-09 Tonight I realized something very important about how people have different standards of importance...as well as the fact that underlying my desire to have time with someone is really a need to feel important in that person's life. That last part is important, because so much of my life has involved me feeling neglected by the people who were in it, so much so that it quite naturally effects my standards of how people show me that I'm important to them. I need to keep that in mind, but also keep in mind that other people will have different standards of importance, which are equally as valid and need to be considered. And despite the shortness of this paragraph, that's quite a bit to consider.

2-22-09 I'd kind of been seeing a person for the last few weeks. Today it ended up not working out. I don't know if I should read more into it than is there...is this part of the emptiness working? I think it's more about her journey than mine in this case and what I take away from it, in my own journey, is that this time I was able to be very graceful about breaking it off and accept where she is, instead of getting upset because my expectations weren't met. I'm sad, but also accepting.

I wrote that earlier, but as the day progressed, I could feel my dysfunctions with emptiness rear up. I'm sitting with them, but I have to admit I don't like who I see in the mirror, right now. It's nothing anyone has done...it's just sitting with those parts of me, the anger, the desire, the fear...sitting and feeling. I'll relax into it, and let it swallow me into the dark well of emptiness.

2-24-09 The last couple of days have been insightful for me, since things were broken between myself and the person I was dating. What has been insightful is that I've had a demon rear its head again. It's not as strong, but I recognize now that by being in a relationship with someone, it anchored that need or grounded it, and once unanchored it once again became something which does not feel good to deal with. It also reveals, to me, a kind of desperate neediness on my part, in a sense. A co-dependence I suppose and I'm not sure I like that either. So I'm trying to sit with this demon and feed it what it needs. It's not easy. My sleep this morning was definitely uneasy as I came out of it thinking about this situation of feeling this desire and recognizing how this desire makes me feel when its expressed in a manner which is unhealthy. I'll keep working with it and being patient, but it does definitely bring up some uncomfortable feelings and realizations.

"Who's that ugly person staring at me?"

"Why that's you my dear."

Re-reading Frantzis's Relaxing into Your Being has been helpful for showing me that what I'm going through with this emptiness working is perfectly normal to be experiencing, when you are doing this kind of work. He mentions that one experience a meditator will have is that of Ru ding, which is a total fear of the death of your ego. And I have to admit, sometimes I have felt that fear. He notes that when you approach the core of your being is natural to want to run in the opposite direction or scream...check. I've felt that too, yet I know I have to stay in those moments, work through them, sit with them, accept them and if I can do that it actually is really good afterwards. And the breathing meditation lets me do that...I breath and I am here.

I also have to acknowledge that on some level I am feeling insecure in my relationship with my wife, because I recognize a feeling of disquiet about our relationship. Yet that disquiet is rooted in what I've discussed above. It's that same demon within me, wanting to have a need fulfilled, but not feeling like she could fulfill that need. And is she really supposed to anyway? A friend said recently I need to spend some time figuring out what I want for me. And he's right...and this demon is part of figuring that out. All the feelings and insecurities that come up are part of it all. What do I really want in my relationships, and also for myself, period?

2-25-09 Today I feel humbled. I realize just how far I have to go in my spiritual journey. Today I feel angry at myself, for my weaknesses, for feeling jealous, and for feeling angry in the first place. I "should" feel compassionate toward myself, but I just can't. I feel like a failure. I am someone stuck to my red dust, and to my habits, and my dysfunctions. If a human is half beast and half angel, most definitely I feel I am the beast today. I sit with my anger, and my jealousy and embody it as a demon and feed it what it wants, but still am left feeling unsatisfied with myself or my efforts. The sharp edges of my feelings are cutting me deep and I really wonder if I can handle that, handle a relationship dynamic I'm not entirely certain I want anymore, etc. The relationship dynamic issues, the demon as it were has really come out as I've considered what has motivated me to be involved with anyone at this point. What it is I'm trying to find with Lupa, another lover, or even a friend. What is the point of all of this? I don't know and I really feel lost today.

2-27-09 Therapy always provides some interesting insights. My therapist asked me, what if my needs, desires, etc. aren't necessarily unhealthy...what if some of my motivations are healthy, but that it's just that I've let the unhealthy needs set the course as it were? And I think it's a good question to ask. I guess I'd say that not all my reasons for my life choices have been unhealthy, but recognizing the reasons that have been unhealthy has made me do some re-evaluation about the kinds of relationships I want and what those relationships will mean to me. And of course it is helping me also understand my relationship to emptiness and how it feels to just sit with emptiness instead of having to try and change it. If I'm not trying to fill my emptiness, but just sitting with it, that does change the types of relationships I'm having with people. And I don't want my relationships to be based on trying to fill something up within me. I want to them to be much more about the actual people who I'm fortunate enough to share my life with.

3-2-09 I feel much less angry with myself than I ever have. There's still a lingering feeling of anger, but not nearly so strong and it's so surprising how much it changes how I feel in general. It's like a big burden has been removed. I actually feel really good and comfortable with my emptiness. It seems the anger aggravated it, which makes sense, but wow...how different it feels...how strangely different and beautiful.

3-3-09 Today I've been sitting with some feeling of anger over a situation where I've felt...unacknowledged for lack of better word. It's not a situation with anyone, or anything...but rather a desire to feel acknowledged. Yet in sitting with it, I wonder how much of it really is about my own sense of self-esteem as well. Seems to me that unattachment, the ability to be distinct, distant, and un-needing of anyone is valued a lot, and what do you do when you realize that isn't who you are? I don't like being distant or unattached. I like connection, resonance, feeling a shared and mutual interest. It's time for me to go a step deeper into the Emptiness meditation work. The layer is ready to be unpeeled.

I meditated for a while and the main impression I got? The fear of my emptiness consuming me, so thus trying to fill my emptiness up with other things so it doesn't consume me. And it makes sense in a very odd kind of way, even though it's clearly a dysfunctional relationship with emptiness. I don't think emptiness would consume me, but this fear, this new layer of issues with emptiness is definitely something I'll visit more, because it speaks of a deep issue with consumerism itself, when it comes to why people indulge in it so much...Are we as culture trying to fill our collective emptiness up, so we can avoid it consuming us?

3-4-09 In reflecting further on what I wrote above, it seems clear to me that many pursuits, if not all of them, offer a person a chance to feed emptiness, while trying to avoid it as well. That's true for me, anyway. I may not want to generalize for anyone else. Yet emptiness is all around us. In reading some more Toward a Psychology of Awakening by John Welwood, he notes something rather interesting: "Our most common experience of nonthought or emptiness is the appearance of little gaps between our thoughts - gaps that are continually occurring, though normally overlooked" He's right. There are gaps of emptiness which appear. If you think in words, the very momentary blip between each word is a moment of emptiness. Then again I think in music and have it on in my mind unless I'm listening to it and I wonder if that isn't just another way to avoid emptiness, even those microcosmic moments of experiencing it. Yet I can say there are times when I am comfortable with emptiness, comfortable with those moments, when that fear of being consumed is gone or somewhere else. Further meditation and reflection and reading will undoubtedly reveal more.

3-08-09 The last couple of days has involved an interesting process of reacting to a moment when I was very vulnerable and open with someone., as well as dealing with my tendency to be possessive/fascinated with the people I'm involved with. Being vulnerable is something I don't do well and there is a reflexive tendency to protect myself when it occurs, because I don't like how it makes me feel. This person can see into me and sees who I am...what will they do now. Readers could argue I'm being vulnerable on this blog, when I write about this stuff, but it's entirely different level of vulnerability, when in person.

The other issue of being possessive/fascinated is always a weird one for me. I am, by my nature, a fairly possessive/territorial person. I can adjust it somewhat, but it is something that never entirely goes away...It seems to be an integral component of my psychological makeup. I recognize it's a fairly selfish aspect of myself, but I also see it rooted in a desire to have a stable home life/territory with people. I like to know what is mine so that I feel secure about it. Yet, I see it relating to my issues with emptiness as well, as if by possessing something or someone I have something to protect myself from the emptiness. A lot to consider.

3-9-2009 Sometimes I find myself in a real fix, with my mind split on what I could do and whether I should do it...and the conflict that can occur sometimes. And in those cases, I sometimes feel terribly weak as a person because of that conflict. I know it's a conflict others deal with as well, but in that moment of feeling weak, all I can really acknowledge is that some part of myself does feel...weak. Moments like these occur much less than they used to be. As I become aligned with what I might think of as my true purpose. calling, destiny, etc., I find myself discovering an inner strength I never thought I possessed. And if I can just continue to sit with these moments of weakness and not necessarily act on them, I might find a capacity to embrace that strength, while also loving my weakness and letting it go.

3-10-09 Today I talked further with my therapist about my realization that underlying my desire to fill my emptiness up was a fear of having that emptiness devour me, devour my identity. She noted I felt a bit ungrounded and I had to admit that yes, I did...I'm not really sure what to do with this realization, or if there is anything I need to do with it. I'm still processing it, still figuring out what it means and how I feel about it. It's such an overwhelming feeling to feel that I need to handle it one little bit at a time, one tiny step...talking about it today was one step, who knows what the next step will be or when it'll occur. I know the fear is there...I know I need to sit with it, but first I just need to accept I feel it.

3-12-09 I've been meditating on the fear for the last two days and a very important realization came up. Sex, for me, has been a way to feed my emptiness, but also a way to avoid feeling my fear about being consumed by my emptiness. It's a multi-layered issue/demon. And it helps me understand the reality of what I'm dealing with when I'm doing this emptiness working. I'm dealing with a bunch of issues connected to how I feel about experiencing emptiness in my life.

3-13-09 It hit me fully today or at least much more today...my emptiness and my fear of being consumed by it as well as what that has meant in regards to my motivations. I felt this fear, felt this very real fragility in myself over acknowledging this fear of being consumed by my emptiness and what that actually means when it comes to my motivations for my choices. In feeling that fear, as opposed to just thinking about it, I got closer to emptiness than I have before.

Later in the evening, I did a tarot experiment where I determined my life/soul card, which turned out to be the Hermit card. We did a pathworking, where I ended up going really deep and allowing the hermit archetype to possess me. He didn't speak much, when questioned by the person doing the pathworking, but he did have a lot of information to give me about not only the emptiness working, but also, if you will, my destiny in this particular life. And what he told me made a lot of sense...answered a lot of questions...what it really boiled down to is being able to let go of what I've held onto for a long time, so I can take that next step on my spiritual path. Truth to tell that's just a really brief summary, but that's all I can offer on the experience.

3-14-09 Sometimes what you hold back eats at you more than what you are showing. When I can't share with someone in my life what I'm going through I feel like that person is no longer really a connection. And when I feel that way...I feel lost with that person. It's the end of this month, the second month focused on compassion. I feel more compassionate toward myself than I used to and maybe even somewhat compassionate toward other people. And I feel less combative toward this emptiness in my life...and yet also find myself on quite the precipice with it. I was telling someone the other day how tired I feel right now...this emptiness work is hard, harder than the love working, and while the progress which has been made has been so worth it, there comes a point in time where what I really look forward to is simply letting go. I am letting go of so much, but the path to that letting go is full of barbed wire and hard realizations. My feet bleed and my emotions hurt...I hurt. And I have seven months more of this...but what those seven months could be...is anyone's guess. I'm learning, I'm living, and yes, I'm experiencing my emptiness and my issues with it. That's something right there I've never done.

Elemental Emptiness Month 4: Compassion pt 1

1-15-09 I've spent the entire day sitting with several patterns of behavior which I've identified as behaviors where I'm engaged in dysfunctional behavior. One example is that while I think it is good to recognize qualities you want in a partner, taken to an extreme this can be its own form of objectification. Have I objectified people I've been interested in? Perhaps, in terms of looking for something specific to fill up the emptiness. That's a disservice to that person, because I'm not seeing the person. I'm seeing what I can get from him/her. The other dysfunctional behavior is a passive aggressive petty streak which manifests through petty comments and actions. I've asked myself, with this one, what the benefit is, and what I get is this wounded child wanting to make sure he doesn't get hurt, by pushing people away and/or seeing if they still want him. And what I feel is compassion. I don't want to judge this child or even his actions as 'good' or 'bad'. I don't want to try and make myself 'better'. I want to heal this child. I want to remove this hurt which spurs on so much of my actions which are hurtful to others and myself. Pema Chodron offers some words I've spent all day contemplating as I've sat with this emotion of pettiness and jealousy.

"What we reject out there is what we reject in ourselves...If we find ourselves unworkable and give up on ourselves, then we'll find others unworkable and give up on them. What we hate in ourselves, we'll hate in others. To the degree that we have compassion for ourselves, we will also have compassion for others. Having compassion starts and ends with having compassion for all those unwanted parts of ourselves, all those imperfection we don't even want to look at"

She also points out that blame is a way people protect their hearts...and I see that in my pettiness. Inevitably the reason I hear for my pettiness is, "This person did this to me or didn't measure up this way, etc." It's a whole variety of reasons that starts with This person did or did not. And it is a way to protect myself from facing that vulnerable wound in myself.

Today I just sat down and everytime I wanted to be petty, I asked myself, "What will this get you?"  And for each response I did my best to be compassionate with that part of myself, to be open to the wound that these actions and behaviors are really hiding. Instead of trying to fill my emptiness up, I want to try and face it, and face the wounds concealed deep within me. So I'll keep asking myself: What does this action do for you? And I'll hold my hand out to that wounded child until he takes hold of it and gives me and him a chance to grow and learn instead of continuing in a cycle of pain and hurt.

1-16-09 I'm continuing to practice conscious awareness of my inclination to distance and passive aggressiveness. Last night, I consciously chose to address what I was feeling at the time instead of acting it out through my actions. I did the same this morning, with an internal focus on being compassionately aware of my feelings and not judging myself for having them. That last part is important, because I think a lot of my passive aggressiveness has actually arisen out of judging myself for feeling certain emotions.

1-18-09 Pema Chodron says the following about being in the present moment: "We have to stop thinking that we can get away and settle down somewhere else. Instead, we could just relax - relax with exhaustion, indigestion, insomnia, irritation, delight, whatever." I've always been trying to escape, instead of relaxing into the moment. I've realized that a lot, especially this last month. There's this desire to get away from the emptiness, to avoid it, to somehow fill it up, or make it go away, instead of just relaxing with it. Today I just tried to relax and be present with the feeling. I still felt irritable and unsettled, but less so than I have this last month. I knew and know I can't escape it, so instead of trying to escape, I'm just sitting with my emptiness, and letting that experience speak for itself. And I'm learning something: To be gentle with myself, to be compassionate to this person who is me.

For so long, for most of my life, I have been my harshest foe, my harshest critique, the angriest person at myself...so hard, so harsh. Chodron says,

"Even after many years, many of us continue to practice harshly. We practice with guilt, as if we're going to be excommunicated if we don't do it right...Some of us can accept others right where they are a lot more easily than we can accept ourselves. We feel that compassion is reserved for someone else, and it never occurs to us to feel it for ourselves. My experience is that by practicing without 'shoulds' we we gradually discover our wakefulness and our confidence"

I have never been kind or compassionate to myself. Much of my self-improvement has been spurred on by a feeling of guilt, that I "should be someone better", or because I've wanted other people's approval or simply because I am supposed to be some type of person for this person I happen to be involved with. And inevitably with a standard set by other people's approval, I have been harsh with myself for not measuring up to what is ultimately an impossible standard. I can tell you lots of reasons, point to my past and everything that happened when I was so young, or to later events in my life, right up to yesterday or earlier today, but the reality of it, in this moment, is that for the first time in my life, I'm discovering what it feels like to be kind and compassionate to myself, in the moment, right now. Not a moment later, not some nebulous time in the future, but in this moment of infinite compassion and softness, without looking to other people for approval, for a standard, or for their expectations of who I should be. And most importantly without guilt, without some sense of obligation to fitting some image that someone else thinks I should fit. This sense of compassion, this feeling of gentle love and acceptance is for me and by me...not for anyone else, not because of anyone else, simply to be in this moment with my emptiness and to love myself regardless. And though I feel vulnerable and frail and just a bit afraid, I also feel empowered, capable, and confident of loving myself, being true to myself and perhaps, for the first, really getting to know my emptiness for what it has to offer and be, instead of trying to fill it up with everything I can distract myself with.

Tonight, I went to one of the fetish events Lupa and I like to go to. When I've gone there in the past, I've felt very empty and very much desired to fill it up with something. Tonight, I still felt empty, but much less so and instead of wanting to fill it up with something or someone I just let myself experience it without any sense of agitation. I actually enjoyed tonight a lot more because of that. I didn't feel desperate or unhappy or anything so much as happy to be in the moment and just appreciative of being where I was...with no need for it to be anything more.

January 22 Today I talked myself through a moment where I wanted to try and fulfill my emptiness. I was compassionate about it...not angry, not full of condemnation. I asked my questions such as: What will this fulfill for you? Who will this benefit and who will this hurt? Answering these questions through a dialogue helped me consider carefully that moment where I wanted to escape and ask myself if it was better to just sit with it and acknowledge it.

January 23 When a person succumbs to a weakness and afterwards reflects on it, the reasons that can be explored and learned from are quite insightful even as that person may be filled with a sense of shame about it. I was that person today. And while I was unhappy with myself, I decided not to berate myself, but sit with compassion and ask myself what motivated my actions, who it benefited, did I feel fulfilled or unsatisfied, and other questions. I'll admit, I didn't really feel satisfied. If anything I felt emptier after the experience and I realized that I'd used the experience to try and escape from my emptiness. But it wasn't just about escape. I uncovered a couple other issues as well that revolved around my desires and how I feel those are or are not met. It leaves me in a place that definitely causes me to think carefully about what it is I feel and what motivates me to act on that feeling as well as whether there are alternatives for acting on that feeling. I don't have easy answers right now, but I will note that as I continue to sit with my emptiness with compassion, it makes it much easier for me to communicate with my partner in a respectful and caring manner, instead of lashing out with my insecurities.

1-24-09 tonight I felt incredibly vulnerable and insecure with Lupa. I basically felt like I had none of the usual walls or securities up with her. We were talking about some issues I've been working through in regards to sex and desire and she asked some questions which quickly took me to a place where I felt like I had none of my usual defenses in place to protect from her seeing apart of me I'm afraid to show anyone, namely the abused, lonely, wounded child. Her seeing this part of me without the usual shields up was very scary, as I was afraid of rejection, afraid that she'd not want to deal with this part of me. Afraid really of seeing the real me...the part that is weak, afraid of being alone, afraid of never having anyone, the part desperate for connection and willing to do whatever it might take to get that connection. Not the entirety, but certainly part of me. As we talked she suggested that perhaps my focus on attention was keeping me from sitting with the feeling of alone. Perhaps it is. Through all of this I felt incredibly vulnerable, incredibly open to this person and she would not let me hide or escape. She was compassionate, but she still stayed with me. It was an odd feeling to have someone want to be there. That part of me was so afraid of rejection, but also expecting it. And I recognize that a lot of this is past patterns, past beliefs, past experiences...but the past isn't the present and I'm ready to move on. This year's emptiness working is taking me deeper into the core of so much that has not worked in my life, but it's also freeing me of so much that has hurt me and others before.

A different angle on this, from Feeding your Demons by Tsultrim Allione: "The way to change things is to address the underlying issue, through feeding our demons what they actually need instead of what they seem to want. If we can get down to the fundamental need under the superficial desire, it usually involves love, compassion, and acceptance"

This is exactly what the issue is for me. I've focused on the want, but not dug underneath to find the need. Meeting a superficial want hasn't proven all that satisfying and why would it, when the need hasn't been addressed? I always feel unsatisfied when I meet a want...but whenever I have dug in and found the need, I can usually find some peace, because once the need is met, I'm no longer focused on directing energy toward it.

Jan 25, 2009 As I meditated today, I focused my awareness on a particularly troublesome knot I felt in my shoulder. As I began to undo the stress in the knot, unkinking the muscles, using energy work, I felt a sensation of fear go through me, about different situations in my life. I kept breathing and focusing on the knot, loosening it up. I realized that the fear was a release of that pent up energy and actually was glad to feel it, because then I could acknowledge it's influence on my actions.

1-26-09 There are days I struggle and feel like I am in an ocean, being buffeted by waves and waves of water, which threaten to suck me down and drown me and it takes all my strength to tenaciously cling to a board of wood that represents some kind of grounding in this working. It's harder still when you hear that someone you love is hurting because she sees you suffering. You want to tell her it will be okay, but on days like this I have trouble convincing myself it will be ok.

1-27-09 Something I can safely acknowledge is that I'm more aware of how I'm communicating and also aware that the important people in my life aren't going anywhere. Had a talk with my wife, which really clarified that for me in a way that was empowering..small victories can lead to big wins.

I also started a working with my magical partner, which involved invoking her into me and her invoking me into her. We've never met in person, but we know what each other looks like, which helped some...but what really stood out to me was that described me as having many holes in me. And really, emptiness does feel like a hole or many holes within me, so it made sense. It did make me think of William S. Burroughs talking about giving up the body when you go to the western lands, "It's full of holes, it's full of holes." I do feel like I'm full of holes...

1-30-09 In therapy today, one realization which came up was that when I feel angry at myself and express that anger toward others, I am punishing myself by driving those people away. I never thought of it that way until today, but it really makes sense. It's not applicable all the time, but sometimes I do feel anger toward myself and it does get expressed toward others and that does hurt me in the end, because then those people are driven away. My anger toward myself is for the failures and mistakes I've made...I've always been a perfectionist thanks to how I grew up and the impossible standards I was held to. I've learned to relax about the perfectionism (in certain ways), but I can be a harsh critic of myself. The past couple of weeks, in my effort to be compassionate with myself, I've tried to be less harsh and just sit with my moments of vulnerability and that's why I came to this realization today.

2-1-09 Some rough conversations the past day or so, plus a feeling of stress...When will you not be doing intense work on yourself? When I feel like I actually have a grasp on who I am. Internal work isn't easy and it never really comes to an end. That said, I do see the light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to various issues I'm working on. I've been embodying my internal issues as demons and using the 5 step process in the Feeding your Demons to work with those embodied issues. I feel that when I do that, I'm not really at the mercy of those issues...I can personify them and then work with them and they become less of an issue and more of a conversation. I realized today, for instance, that I get involved with lovers who have little time for me because that's a pattern I encountered early on, when I wanted positive attention from my family. I never got much of it, and always felt neglected (and was). Fast forward to the present and this pattern is played out with the people I get involved with. On some level, I recognize that and so go for people I know will not have lots of time. I then feel unsatisfied because those people don't have time for me, but I'm playing out that pattern in my life, even though it doesn't benefit me or the other person/people. Realizing that today helps me recognize what I need to work on/change within myself, in order to find some level of peace with my need for attention, but also attract the right people who can handle that need and desire for attention.

2-4-09 Feeling pretty good lately. The emptiness work continues and I've been doing a lot of core work with my feelings about abandonment. While I still have it rear up, I feel like I have a better handle on it now, with a better sense of assuredness. It helps that I'm continuing to meditate on a regular basis using the Demon Feeding technique. I feel more compassion toward myself, less anger. It's not completely gone, but for once I don't feel the need to punish myself.

2-5-09 A couple of nights ago, I felt incredibly vulnerable with someone. This person ended up helping me sit with that vulnerability, though it took sometime for me to really open up. It was scary, because I knew this person could see inside me. She made several observations which I knew were right on the mark, and I was able to admit she was right, but being seen in that way was both intimate and unnerving. I've always been a secretive person when it comes to my heart, but less so, because of this emptiness working. It's as if all the protections and defenses are being taken away...sometimes harshly, sometimes gently, but nonetheless they are taken away. I don't know if it's good or bad, or if it will leave me in a better place or a worse place. Yet as I continue this journey into emptiness and into who I am and who I want to be, I find that it leaves me feeling less conflicted than I have been. Sitting with myself in compassion, letting myself be vulnerable, and actively communicating in a direct manner leaves me feeling less hurt than I have been. And maybe my emptiness isn't the enemy I thought it was.

2-6-09 When is a mistake let go of? When does something done in the past get relegated to the past? I discussed that some today with my therapist. It's easy for people to sit and judge someone, even when those people have no business judging that person, especially when they never bother to ask the person being judged about his/her reasons for making a decision. It's easy to sit and judge and take sides, but the consequences of taking a side isn't always as pretty to deal with. I've been thinking about that as I continue to work through my anger toward myself, but also toward others.

When is something let go of? It's a question I've asked myself a lot, as I learn to let go of my guilt and and similarly toxic feelings about the past. At some point guilt which is felt becomes toxic, for even though it can be a motivating reason to change, it can also hold you back from reaching out to others. When do you let go, and say to the other person I'm ready to let go of my anger, my resentment for what happened. I'm ready to let go of what I did and what you did.

I'm ready to let go now. I'm ready to move on and leave the past where it belongs, while actually living and embracing this moment, this present, right now.

Longing leads to emptiness as well. The longing for an embrace, a touch, a kiss, a heated glance, or softly whispered words, or written text...a connection made, sustained, possibly lost, possibly found. When I find myself thinking of someone, am I really missing that person or just the way that person makes me feel, or a combination of both? We mistake longing for love, the passion of the first encounter, the rush of NRE for love, but what is love? When is love really felt? And when do we just delude ourselves into believing we are in love because of how someone makes us feel? In longing, I find the familiar awareness of emptiness...longing, longing, longing, longing...where will it lead to in the end, but emptiness, and through that everything...

In doing this emptiness work, I am focused, driven, obsessed with emptiness. My therapist said she's rarely seen someone so focused on a particular issue for so long. This is the core though...the core wound, the definer of my dysfunction...so I am driven by my desire to work with it, to face it, to really, and truly express and explore it, even if all that discomfits others. We don't have a healthy relationship with emptiness in the West. We are taught to fear it, hide from it, bury it, and otherwise escape from it. There is no escape, so I might as well embrace it.

B. K. Frantzis says of emptiness:

Everything will seem to be without content. Ordinarily, we experience both external and internal objects in the world as having shape, size, and some kind of content. Everything has an inherent identification or meaning that the world can grasp. As emptiness is accessed through meditation, however, your spirit starts increasingly to transform the energies of your perceptions of solid objects and stored mental images...as you start perceiving every tangible thing as nothing, you discover that nothingness simultaneously becomes full of universal consciousness, which is potentially able to become anything. There is no difference between everything being nothing and nothing being everything. your ongoing awareness spans the tremendous spiritual dichotomy between emptiness and fullness/form.

Everything and nothing, 0 and 1, all things and none. This is the path of emptiness, the path I am walking on.

2-7-09 How liberating it is to let go of a feeling that you've held for too long. My body had a physical reaction after I took care of something I needed to do. Even now, it feels looser, less tense, in the stomach and there is a lightness in my chest, I haven't felt in far too long. I need to not let circumstances or other peoples' fears stop me from communicating something that needs to be said. It's too toxic to hold it in, and it helps no one.

2-10-09 I've been sitting with my anger and the expressions of it a lot this month, without trying to act them out in the obvious route. Sometimes I've succeeded and sometimes not. Earlier I was a bit defensive with my wife over a choice I made recently. I stopped myself and said, "What are you really reacting to." And then told her. A lot of this month, in regards to compassion has been learning to let go of anger, but also let anger let go of me. Sometimes anger has held so tightly to me, because I've held so tightly to it and yet holding on so tight has been so hurtful for myself and others involved. Letting anger go and letting anger let go of me has been strange because it is so tight, and then suddenly it's not. I'm left with compassion, relaxation, a loosening of blockage into flow. I have felt physical blockages that were so tense just release this month because I've stopped holding on so tight. My belly feels more relaxed, less tense...it's something new.

2-12-09 Tonight it was suggested to me that I learn to love myself more. After this month, I think that could be possible. I've felt a lot more compassion toward myself, less anger, less struggle, less conflict. This emptiness working is stabilizing some. I'm still learning to sit with my emptiness and accept it for what it is, instead of trying to fill it up or run frm it. And acceptance has lead to soemthing of a more peaceful place. Love myself more...love myself period. Maybe. I certainly like myself more than I used to, so loving myself could be possible. I think I'll keep sitting with compassion and see where it gets me.

Connecting to my shadow self

Tonight I was taken on a pathworking to find some resources to help me work with my emptiness. Throughout this pathworking I used the Taoist water breathing meditation, which helped put me in a deep head space.  The priestess who took me on this journey is someone I trust, who really knows her stuff and knows how to take a person into a deep space. Once she had me in the proper frame of mind, she had me do a pathworking where I was in a cavern and the cavern was full of the energy of abandonment. I got sucked into water and had to hold my breath for a time, then a green spot of light and oxygen. I swam to a place where I found this younger version of myself. This younger version of myself told me how I could heal the feeling of abandonment, the holes within me. He lead me to an altar and gave me some energy and an item...a scroll, with instructions. Then pink and purple energy was out into the holes, right down to the roots and my younger self glowed with energy and directed where the incoming energy went. He told me that he was my shadow self and that the emptiness could be an ally, if I was letting to let it be an ally. He told me he'd be my guide for some of that work, and that I could access him at anytime if I wanted to continue journeying further. I then was lead to the entrance of the cave and then came back into conscious awareness of the physical space I was in. The priestess and I talked for a bit and she provided some temporary shields to help me continue the healing in a protected space. We closed the circle down and afterwords chatted for a bit. I felt really comfortable working with this person in a spiritual way, partially because we've worked together some before, but also bcause she was willing to take me into some deep places and did so in an excellent manner with the necessary aftercare also provided.

Thoughts on energy work

Very recently I had an experience with energy work which really amazed me, because of how subtle it was and yet how how powerful as well. It was a case of someone taking over an interaction and showing me how I was actually over-extending myself instead of allowing myself to flow into the moment. This person showed me this a few different ways and each time I was amazed because I realized how much, even now, I sometimes put too much energy into an interaction and end up unbalancing myself.

I've actually started re-reading Relax into Your Being by B. K. Frantzis, and it seems like a good time to re-read and re-mind myself of the principle of flowing into energy. I've recognized before the value of flowing into a situation, but even so it's easy to forget sometimes in little ways. I enjoyed the reminder because it did show me some areas I can improve on with my energy work and also intimacy. Learning is always an experience to be cherished.

I think what I really learned last night is that sometimes to really experience the energy of a given moment, you've got to let go of your preconceptions and desire to control and just be...and let that speak for itself.

Review of Feeding Your Demons by Tsultrim Allione.

This is probably one of the most elegant and useful processes I've found for doing internal work. She bases it off of the Chod ritual done in the Tibetan Bardo and Buddhist systems of work, but makes it sufficiently culture free so that anyone could use the technique and get the concepts behind using the technique. Additionally the technique is broken down into a five step process, which is easy to do and definitely produces results, while also continuing to build upon the internal work you may already be doing. Pick this book up, because it will definitely put a new twist on your dysfunctions, and also help you move past them.

5 out of 5 demons

Demons and social responsibility follow up

I've continued working with the five step process detailed in Feeding Your Demons. It's proven very helpful so far when I've had insecurities come up. It serves as an excellent complement to my Taoist breathing practices which are also focused on the dissolution of blockages. One issue that this process has helped me recognize is an awareness of focusing on how much time one spends with me as a way of recognizing my value. In recognizing this issue, it's helped me start reconsidering if that's a valid measurement of worth and also helped me further explore how to develop my own sense of worth more. I'm also writing about this process in my monthly report for the elemental working, so you'll see more information about it in two weeks. On magic and social responsibility, I've been delving further into Mencius and also just started reading Investment for Change, which examines the ethics of investing as a form of social responsibility. Mencius shares information that I find intriguing and useful for considering magic and social responsibility. One idea involves turning a vice into a virtue by sharing it with people. It argues that if you keep what you enjoy to yourself then it becomes a vice, because it's done primarily for selfish reasons, but if you share what you enjoy with others, the pleasure becomes a virtue because it is done with other people. In a sense, it also might be argued that by sharing what you enjoy with other people, you make it into a social activity where the activity can be enjoyed but also moderated by social boundaries and mores, whereas if you keep it to yourself, it may be done to excess and addiction. Also if you share your pleasure with others, perhaps you are helping to fulfill the needs those others have through the act of sharing. And how does that apply to magic? If magic is done primarily for self-gratification, is it a selfish act? If magic is shared with others as a means of empowering those others as well as yourself, does it then create social responsibility? While I don't think magic done for the self is always inherently selfish, I do think that exploring the concept of sharing magic with others is worth exploring in terms of fleshing out whether magic can have an aspect of social responsibility to it. The investment book I mentioned is focused on the idea of investing with an eye toward manifesting change into the world through your investments...while not inherently magic, it does fascinate me to explore finances in that way, and of course wealth magic provides an opportunity employ magic toward that purpose as well. Undoubtedly it is something I will explore further.

There's a few other projects, but they are not in a coherent form just yet...

Learning not to struggle with my demons

Since starting to read Tsultrim Allione's book, Feeding Your Demons, I've been re-learning something I've learned before, but from a Taoist perspective in Relaxing into your Being: Breathing, Chi, and Dissolving the Ego, by B. K. Frantzis. From the Taoist perspective you use breathing and energy work to dissolve blockages. With Tsultrim's work, you embody the bloackages or issues into demons you can interact with and then you dissolve them by feeding the demons what they need, as opposed to what they want. And what both books teach is that the more you actively resist or fight something, the stronger it gets, because you are letting it guide and control your strength. By relaxing, and also learning how to use your strength to guide the demon/blockage you can actually loosen up a lot of resistance and free your energy up. The last few weeks have been hard for me, because I've consciously realized just how much I've struggled against some of my demons, all the while making them stronger. When you observe behavior that you know is unhealthy and you know you should stop it, but you feel your efforts aren't working, it's like watching a train wreck happening. You can't stop it and you feel helpess and frustrated. That's how I've felt not even the just the last few weeks, but really the last few months, since the beginning of this emptiness working. And every bit of progress I've gained has been a struggle, a fight for even an inch...yet in fighting myself so much I have made it so much harder on myself than I needed to.

You might wonder, since I've had access and been doing the Taoist breathing, why that didn't just work, but I think that while it does work, there's also something to be said for how people sometimes box themselves in through their perceptions. It's been in reading and working with the exercises in Tsultrim's work that I've finally started to feel less resistance and less struggle. It's still there some, because I'm not used to interacting with my emptiness or abandonment issues without some form of struggle involved, but emboding my issue into the form of a demon, where I can interact with it has helped me actually put a face to my issues and so respond to them with more compassion than I would normally allow for myself. In fact, perhaps because I haven't previously embodied my issues in a form that was approacheable, it's been harder to feel compassion because it still on some levels feels like an abstract concept that I'm grappling with. The embodiment of an aspect of myself provides something that's more flesh and blood...and I've had access to techniques like this, but what's helping me GET this concept is the way Tsultrim words/explaisn the technique as well as the underlying issues that create these demons. I've read books on pathworking, explained from a Western Magical perspective, but the problem that has occurred is that the approach has often been worded in an abstract, intellectual manner, without a corresponding level of emotional/spiritual awareness that allows a person to feel the technique, as well as visualize it or read about it.

I'm still struggling with my demons, but each day it's a bit less and I find it makes what I'm doing a bit easier...it's easier to feel compassion for my struggles, for my weak moments, and for my failings than it ever was before. I can finally accept my failings and from that acceptance start toward a genuine path of change and growth.

The Emptiness Working Month 3: Rage

Dec 17 We've just moved into the new place and I have online connection again. The last half week has been hard. We got moved out quickly and right after it snowed in Portland, which pretty much brings this city to a crashing halt. Mainly though, I've been dealing with rage, with anger, and this makes perfect sense to me in context to emptiness, because one of the first emotions I learned to repress was rage. I had to repress it, because I wasn't really allowed to express it to anyone. And although I eventually did learn to express it, how I've expressed it hasn't always been healthy. The repression of rage is, I think, what first lead me to emptiness. I pushed my rage down and in pushing it down I also pushed my other emotions down. So I became empty, because emptiness was safer than feeling emotions. And yet that very emptiness was so haunting that I cut myself physically to feel something...it was a catch 22. I wasn't even really feeling emptiness so much as I was feeling the blockages I created in order to survive on a day by day basis. But feeling those blockages was enough to make me feel emotionally dead and so I cut myself back then to feel. It took me a long time to overcome that addiction to cutting.

The last few days put me on edge because of moving. I felt uprooted. Plus I've been dealing with past memories and current emotions in regards to some of my family. So rage has been close to the surface. Yesterday I felt so ready to just snap and I took the day to just get away from people in general. Some alone time to feel emotions, think and work through stuff.

Not surprising some of my thoughts turned to what I'd written about in the last update about emptiness. I thought back to times where I've sometimes emotionally led someone on or been less than forthcoming about my emotions and how I felt and realized that everyone, to some degree or another does this. I still felt ashamed though, because I realized just how much I have done the same behaviors that I experienced the last couple of months. It just provides me more motivation to change that to more genuine and authentic communication, because even if that communication hurts at the time, it's better than the eventual hurt that occurs down the line, which is usually worse because a person feels led on. And truth to tell I've experienced both sides of that equation before, but it's only now that I honestly can say I recognize how hurtful it can be to lead someone on out of fear of displeasing or whatever else motivates the action and how hurt one can feel when one realizes s/he is lead on. It's that conscious awareness which allows a person to make a genuine change, because you also see the consequences of the actions and can recognize the effect on you and others.

Feeling the rage I've felt lately hasn't been as intimidating as it used to be. It's something I feel, but I've been developing better coping strategies for it. I don't need to repress it, nor do I need to lash out and so I can find a way to manage it and express it that involves more communication and less reaction.

Dec 18. My mom is visiting for a week. She actually came in last night. I spoke with her at some length about my emptiness working and the feelings I was working through in regards to her and my family in general. It was a productive talk and when I drove home, I started to cry. I just felt something loosen up with me and that wounded child gave vent to some emotions that I hadn't realized needed that release. I felt less burdened afterwards. I'll be curious as to the rest of this week and what it brings.

I also got further confirmation that my decision at the end of last month is a good one, i.e. to just hold back from getting too involved with anyone, and focus on the internal work. People come into your life for a reason, I tend to think. Sometimes that reason is to show you what you're missing right in front of you. or within you, in my case. There's a part of me tempted to bury myself into a project that already is involving a lot of my time. I know better than to busy myself to avoid feeling something...it's a classic route to emptiness, but better to feel the pain and let it go then repress it and find it comes back with a vengeance later on.

Dec 19 A lot to write this month. Today my mom was telling me a story about an aunt and I ended up remembering something similar about my step mom. And I felt a surge of rage go through me toward this person who I've not see in years. Later tonight, Lupa and I had an argument about some stuff planned out. I was angry with myself for not thinking of her and thought about that pattern of anger as it had manifested over the last couple of weeks. Where does this self-anger come from?

And I meditated tonight and traced it to the root which was, of course, my childhood...remembering how I'd try and do everything as perfect as possible to avoid getting punished or yelled at or shaken. And how when I didn't do it just right, I'd get angry at myself, as a way to show someone else, usually my step mom, that I knew I had done something wrong and was punishing myself (not that it ever stopped her from punishing me anyway). And that's the root of my self anger...an attempt to punish myself to avoid punishment from someone else and I felt anger at her all over again. I wanted to shake her, yell at her, tell her what a disappointment and failure she was...all the things I'd been told when I was a child. I wanted to make her feel powerless. I never realized just how much my self-anger, and all of my approaches to anger came from this individual, or how toxic she was in my life until today. And feeling that today...was good, but it also did have me thinking about something I told my therapist: I want to learn how to manage my anger better, so I don't explode, so I express it safely, so I speak to how I feel, but respect myself and everyone else in how I speak. So I learn how to not repress my anger any longer, but also release it in a way that is ultimately healthy for all involved. I can do this and yes this is part of my challenge with emptiness.

Dec 22nd I found myself thinking about a recent situation and the other person involved in that situation last night. A sense of helplessness filled me, because I realized I had no sense of control or ability to do anything about the situation, except to accept it, and no idea if there would be further interaction with this person at all. Later that night I started re-reading Pema Chodron's When Things Fall Apart, and the following passage spoke perfectly to how I feel today and felt last night:

"Instructions on mindfulness or emptiness or working with energy all points to the same thing: Being right on the spot nails us right to the point of time and space that we are in. When we stop there and don't act out, don't repress, don't blame it on anyone else, and also don't blame it on ourselves, then we meet with an open-ended question that has no conceptual answer. We also encounter our heart."

I do feel right on the spot. And though I feel helpless, I don't have blame for this person, for asserting boundaries that needed to be asserted. On the other hand, I can't really blame myself for feeling what I do, because it's how I feel. So instead I'm in this place where I'm encountering my heart, encountering the emptiness and encountering a place where the only control I have is to let go of any control at all. It's not an easy place to be.

Dec 25 Due to the Snowpocalpyse I was not able to drop my mom off to the airport today. Instead I saw her one last time for lunch yesterday. We both felt frustrated that we didn't get to see each other more. This visit went really well and for me ended up bringing some closure to some feelings of anger I've held onto for way to long. Being able to talk with her, and tell her about how I felt and listening to her was a release for me. Given that I'm working on anger and its relationship to emptiness her visit came at just the right time and left me feeling more at peace with her myself, a needed feeling right now with the rigors of this emptiness working. Especially in the beginning of the elemental, having these triumphs can make all the difference.

I also, today, decided to finish letting go of someone from my life. I'd mainly kept the connection out of a sense of guilty, which is hardly healthy for either of us. That's not a reason to stay connected, not for me, and so today I finally felt I could let that guilt and the lingering anger go. I wish peace upon that person and more importantly I wish peace upon myself. I don't need to continue to weigh myself down with the mistakes I made in that connection. I think the biggest lesson for me today about emptiness is that it is about letting go of whatever is holding you back...

Dec 27 Over the last couple of days I've continued to sit with my feelings about being in situations where I've felt romantically thwarted, and/or have romantically thwarted someone else. The shame I have felt in the latter case, because of my actions has been quite revealing to me. I ask, "Is this the action of an authentic person?" and the answer I receive is, "No." Given how I have felt lately, in response to the last couple of months, I feel some empathy for how I may have hurt other people in the past. Nonetheless, as I've continued to process these feelings I came across another passage from Pema Chodron which is helping me put these feelings into perspective:

"The very first noble truth of the Buddha points out that suffering is inevitable for human beings as long as we believe that things last - that they don't disintegrate, that they can be counted on to satisfy our hunger for security"

The attachment to an outcome is, I realize, what has caused me to feel these feelings. I've been so focused on the desired result, I forgot about the process. Yet having these feelings, this suffering, brings me back to the process, until I can learn to let go of that attachment to outcome and accept the moment as it manifests, with boundless potential and options waiting, if I am willing to be open to them. I'm still wrestling with my feelings about what's happened in the last couple months, but I do feel closer to releasing those feelings. They are attachment to a desired outcome which hadn't occurred. I can't make it occur as it is, so learning to let go could free me to experience it as it could be.

I'd said the other day that I was letting go of a connection with someone, but today I happened to look through old chat logs and felt such shame go through me again. Shame buried deep within me. That shame relates to my feelings of anger and also to some of what I've discussed above. I know feeling this shame is healthy for me, and that at some point I'll heal from what happened, but even a year later I feel haunted by what I did. Guess that's another reason to do this emptiness working.

12-28 Today I got some inspiration in the form of a friend who told me how she'd changed a particular behavior by tracing it back to the root of its expression in her body. I thought that was interesting and decided I might do something similar. As you might recall, last month's title was obsession and I thought I might look at that emotion today in my meditation. Tracing it back inevitably took me to to the feeling of abandonment, and my first memory. I am going to do some more intensive work with that memory to achieve a sense of closure with it, as well as the associated emotions that are rooted in it.

1-1-2009 My new years day involved me realizing that one way I've tried to fill my emptiness up has been through sexual activity. Not so much to enjoy sex, but to escape feeling empty. It explains some of my behavior when it comes to how I've handled people afterwards, the sometimes stringing along I've done has been a discomfort on my part with dealing with the reality of the person, as opposed to what I initially got, which was a temporary escape from feeling empty. When I realized just how much that feeling of emptiness has motivated my behaviors across a wide spectrum of activities, it was hard. Yet it's a good realization so long as I turn it into something more than just that.

1-5-2009: I've been spending the last few days meditating and working through my feelings about sex for escape vs sex for connection. There's definitely a difference for me in the acts. For escape isn't about anyone else than me, and mainly me using the sensations to get rid of the emptiness. Sex for connection is about letting the other person in, connecting and being with that person in that moment. Sex for escape doesn't leave much of a lasting impression...it doesn't have the same feeling as sex for connection, which does leave an impression. It's telling I've only realized this in the last few days though, because it's such a hidden part of the emptiness...the underbelly of my desire as it were.

In terms of emptiness and anger, I've lately been recognizing that my relationship with anger when I apply anger to myself has involved a lot of punishment, a tendency to turn the anger toward myself as a way of expiating my guilt. Yet that anger doesn't seem to serve a constructive purpose. The fact that I still feel guilty for what happened a year ago is a dysfunctional process in a way, though on the other hand I suppose it has motivated me to change. Still, at what point does the anger and guilt get let go of?

Today I asked someone, "Please be gentle with me." And thought sometime later, "I wonder if others thought that with me." Gentleness, for me, comes from compassion and awareness of suffering...The last couple of weeks of conscious awareness has made me want to be much more gentle with people.

1-8-09 It seems that in one form or another a lesson that seems to be particularly hard for me to learn is one I'm experiencing in different forms and manifestations. The attachment I've felt toward a particular result has in one way or another painfully been exposed in terms of the unhealthy aspects of it. I continually find obstacles and in those obstacles painfully see myself and my weaknesses in ways I have never wanted to. Yet in seeing those weaknesses I am given a moment of perspective and clarity about them. Chodron says the following:

"Perhaps there is no solid obstacle except our own need to protect ourselves from being touched. Maybe the only enemy is that we don't  like the way reality is now and therefore wish it could go away fast. But what we find as practitioners is that nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know...It just keeps returning with new names, forms, and manifestations until we learn whatever it has to teach us about where we are separating ourselves from reality, how we are pulling back instead of opening up, closing down instead of allowing ourselves to experience fully whatever we encounter, without hesitating or retreating into ourselves." (Chodron 1997, p. 66 from When Things Fall Apart).

I read those words above and I realize rationally that this describes exactly what I've been struggling with for the last few months in terms of my relationship to emptiness, to other people, and to the habits I've utilized to try and fill myself up. Emotionally I want to rebel again those words and shrink away and yell and pout and whatever else. I recognize emotionally I am too attached. I've been reminded of that this very evening in a correspondence with someone. I can clearly see how much of this is an issue of control with myself, a control an attachment to something, and yet I feel helpless in the face of the suffering that this attachment has caused me. I cannot seem to let go of the attachment, even though it causes more suffering. Chodron also said "We are killing the moment by controlling our experience". To the magician in me this is antithetical, strange, and fearsome. to the human in me, this is something scary to experience, this realization of control and the suffering it causes. For whatever affirmation control seems to give me, I am nonetheless faced as well with the realization that clinging to a desired outcome has lead me to a lot of suffering and even when fulfilled, not nearly as much satisfaction as one might think it would provide. That is such a hard lesson for me to learn is frustrating in itself. I'm reminded of what a friend of mine has said, "I just want it to be over with." Yet what Chodron writes above is undeniable...it won't be "over with" until I learn whatever I need to learn from it...and I've seen this repeated with various lessons in my life. I'll get there eventually, when I actually get it.

When a person tells you that s/he understands your suffering, that person is sympathizing. Suffering is not something which is understood. It is experienced. And that experience shapes and sculpts a person in ways that can be considered alchemical. The dross is burned off, purged, and otherwise destroyed. The left over remnants are purified through the rotting putrefaction of the person's agony. The refinement into alchemical gold is a process which involves a lot of destruction for the rebirth of a new creation, which is refined by all the lessons learned in the process toward that creation. But the suffering is a heavy price to pay for that refinement. I may very well be a "better" person after all this work I do, but sometimes I wonder if the cost is really worth it, and today is one of those days. I can't say I've ever understood anyone else's suffering, but I have and am suffering and it is an experience I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

1-10-09 The other night I gave vent to grief over really what these last few months have been like for me. I just allowed myself to feel something I needed to release. I didn't want to be touched by anyone, I didn't want anyone to give sympathy. I just wanted to feel my anger and grief and suffering from the last few months. The next day I caught myself acting passive aggressive about some stuff and talked about it at length with my therapist. We seemed to agree that the passive aggressiveness boils down to issues of authority with women and not always feeling capable of expressing the need for boundaries or just needs in a way that is straightforward. It's something I've been working on this month and even before that, but it's good I'm recognizing that the root of my passive aggressive behaviors goes back to what happened with my boundaries never really being respected in my early years. Recognizing all of this gives me hope in terms of changing the behavior...it's something, though right now, not enough (which is so appropriate to emptiness)

On a different note, in reading the notes on the Star wars wiki about the emperor, and specifically how the emperor approaches anger, the emperor notes that a person must balance anger with intelligence, using the intelligence to control the expression of anger. And sure I see the sociopathic potential with that, but otoh, there's also something to be said for stepping back from a situation and feeling your anger and then intelligently discussing it. Likely not what he would mean...but I'm not a sith lord.

1-12-09 The quote below is from a character called Darth Plagueis from the Star Wars universe

Tell me what you regard as your greatest strength, so I will know how best to undermine you; tell me of your greatest fear, so I will know which I must force you to face; tell me what you cherish most, so I will know what to take from you; and tell me what you crave, so that I might deny you.

It is, I think, the embodiment of what I might consider the more demanding aspects of emptiness. This month, and the last two months has put me in a place where this quote is so accurate, because it has pushed me to my edge and forced me to really face my fears, while being denied my desires. It's fitting really that it's happened, and so fitting that the Emperor has taken such a prominent role in this working.Whenever something has occurred this month or the last couple, I've heard his gravelly voice, and felt his hands on my shoulder. He berates, admonishes, threatens, and occasionally praises me, telling me that I am being shaped by all of these experiences and learning not only the power of my emotions, but what it is really like to fully feel them. And of course he's teaching me something about how to work with the emotional energies in a way which I know will be helpful for a variety of experiments.  All the same reading those words now has really brought home the full force of this emptiness working. This is what I invoked into my life for the last three months and for the next nine months as well, at least to some degree. It isn't the entirety of emptiness, but it is a big part of it nonetheless.

I do feel Xah in the background. He's occasionally come up and reminded to go at my own pace and to respect the pace of others as well. He's teaching me, slowly but surely a lot about pace and what pace means when it comes to interactions with myself and others. His is a much more subtle undercurrent in this emptiness working. He leads me on, a mocking smile on his face, but also the occasional gentle prod.

1-13-09 Talked with a friend today about events that occurred last week. At one point he stopped me and said, "You're still holding so much anger in. Just let it out and vent." I realized he was right and just started yelling and venting about what had occurred and how angry I felt over feeling disempowered in the situation I'd been in. He said afterwards that he holds back sometimes as well because of the fire inside him, a fire he noticied in me as well. I am a fiery and passionate person and I do leash my anger around people I'm close to, even when I'm angry at those people, which speaks to the repression cycle. Yet today just venting and letting lose felt really good. It helped that the person I'm angry at wasn't there, but I wonder how healthy it is to hold back my expression of anger. The repression eventually leads to a volcanic eruption of anger, which certainly isn't helpful either. Finding a balance point would be helpful. At the beginning of this month, I recognized that rage was going to be the theme of this month and so much has played out in my interaction with this feeling. I feel simultaneously wiser about how I handle anger, and less empowered because I feel that anger and am in a way intimidated by feeling it and expressing it. Given how destructive anger is, I suppose some warieness is wise to feel, but part of me wonders if I'm just running from myself. Given that I wrote at the beginning of this month that I feel less intimidated by my anger, I feel humbled in realizing that this isn't really the case. The illusions we give ourselves are quickly destroyed in the face of this kind of work.

1-14-09 Sometimes surrender is the best option to take. I have been fighting my feelings of emptiness all my life. this month has embodied that fight with the rage and helplessness I have felt. I was told today that instead of trying to fill my emptiness up, that I should see if that desire to fill it up is the dysfunction. I suppose it's as clear a message as any this last month. Stop trying to distract yourself. Give in, surrender, submit. That is simultaneously the hardest and easiest act to do. I've tried filling up the emptiness. Now I'm just going to give in...surrender, and see what happens. Let go of attachment to what you think you want...or maybe just recognize how much that attachment leads to suffering and ask yourself if it's worth it. I'm told if you can't find it within, you won't find it without. Pretty words, but it doesn't solve anything for me. It's easy to offer such words, but the action is mine to take, and giving up, surrendering runs counter to so much of how I lived my life. But if life is a conflict that hurts so much, trying something new can actually be worth it. So...I'm giving up...I just don't know what I'm giving up...how terrifying. See you next month.

Energy work as extension instead of contraction

I've started reading Tai Chi Dynamics by Robert Chuckrow, who is a physics professor and explains Tai chi in terms of physics. It's quite a fascinating book and I'm really intrigued by his explanation of how to work with the muscles of the body, because I think it aptly demonstrates how energy work is approached, in terms of attempting to force it to go somewhere as opposed to flowing with it. With contractive muscular force, a lot more pressure is put on the muscle to perform an action. Weight lifters tend to use their muscles in a contractive way. Obviously this can make them very strong, but it also decreases the flexibility they have. Also muscular contraction can only be done for a short time because of the sharp build up of lactic acid.

With extension applied to the muscles, the muscles are stretched in a way that is natural to them...they are kept relaxed instead of contracted. Muscular extension allows a person to perform longer...the lactic acid doesn't build up as fast.

I tried one of the exercises he includes in the book. You relax an arm that you have extended in front of you as much as possible. You gently squeeze your fingers as if you were holding a ribbon in your hand. You then replicate this motion in the muscles in your arm. It's a very subtle movement, and different from how I normally move my arm. There's not as much effort involved, and at the same time it does seem that the chi or internal energy is freed up...it flows more. I will continue working with this to see what I can do with it. Chuckrow notes that when the muscles in the body aren't using contractive force, they become relaxed and the body acts like a container of fluid. Pressure is increased equally across all parts of the body.

Personally I find this fascinating. Having done a fair amount of Taoist breath work, I know that the fire breathing is similar to the contractive use of muscles...sharp and contained. It seems more powerful, but the water approach is more like the extending of muscles. It gradually builds up the force and it can be sustained much longer.

I've only read part of the first chapter and I can already say I really like this book. Check it out if you get a chance!

The Emptiness Working Month 1: Rotting

In the first three weeks of getting involved in the emptiness working, I've already had so much come up. Just as the elemental love working was intense from the get go, this working has also been intense from day one. A lot of this first month has involved dealing with insecurities. Insecurities about myself, insecurities about my relationships...The gateways into emptiness. In this first month, I've suddenly found myself surrounded by potential love interests and yet none of them really manifested into anything concrete. It was if I was given a tiny taste, a few drops of water, but then it was taken away. And the ache, after it was taken away was sharp and discordant because it emphasized what was not there. In each case I met people who I could be very interested in, even feel a bit of NRE for and yet there would be something which just didn't quite work...something about each person or situation which said, "This can't happen right now." And I felt each time a sense of loss, a sense of emptiness, because I would get excited, get a taste, and then...There's a pattern there, and yes there is emptiness in that pattern.

Another way emptiness manifested into my life was through realizing just how much the guilt over last year has changed how I approach situations with people. When I was told by someone how much my actions had hurt that person, my wife, and I...and when I saw some of those same patterns repeat themselves, I realized on some level that my focus on my own desires, without any real sense of awareness for how others felt or would be effected, had caused the pain that the people. And when I looked back at not just my recent past, but also much further back, I saw that same pattern and it really hit me how much I had hurt other people because of my selfishness. I carried that guilt with me through most of this last year's elemental working...and I've carried it into this year's working as well. In an argument with my wife, it came out in a way I didn't expect...it came to my awareness, when I realized how much I didn't want to see someone else carry a similar load of guilt. And I see it in how much my actions have changed now, when it comes to people coming into my life...how much more cautious I am. But realizing how much that guilt has changed has left me feeling very sad and alone as well. We bear the weight of our crimes, but sometimes that weight sinks us, and I have sunk further into my emptiness.

And then there was the car accident, which while not horrible, nonetheless brought a sense of mortality with it, and a reminder of a much younger time and a much worse accident.

Finally, to some degree everything has lost some of it's lustre for me. At the core of myself, I feel a dull pain, a haggard kind of awareness. I feel all the cuts I've ever given myself over the course of the years. I feel all these emotions, the anger, the fear, the hunger...all of these emotions which has lead to an experience of emptiness and I realize I need to feel these, feel how I get into the emptiness before I can let go of those triggers. And some part of me feels as if it is rotting...I am in the putrefaction stage of alchemy...desiccating, decomposing, returning to the rich hummus of the Earth...part of the cycle of life, where something falls apart, in order for something else to replace it. Occasionally I look at myself and all I see is what is falling apart...The illusions feel away and what was underneath is not so pretty. I feel like one of the dragon snakes...bloated with all these emotions, growing fat on my own fear, only to have it fall away to revel the rotting core underneath.

And throughout all of this I have felt the Emperor's hand on one shoulder and Xah on the other, one whispering of how to use my emptiness, how to use my emotions and feelings to go and further into a state of mind that while very observant, is also very empty, very dark, and very alone. And XAH tells me, that the fox is about illusion but also uncovering the truth beneath the illusion. Both tempt me...both are dangerous to me in their own way...but the emptiness itself is it's own temptation. the gateway is open, and as I work through these feelings that lead to emptiness, it beckons to me...

Occasionally, I've felt moments of oneness with the emptiness, of a kind of peace. It's a rare feeling. And when I feel that way, the energy of emptiness has interwoven itself into my own energy...my hands have grown very warm, warmer than other times I do energy work, and the world has actually become crystalline...everything stands out in sharp relief...perfect.

*********

I went to a fetish event tonight. What waste of time. I've actually noticed that such events tend to enhance my feeling of emptiness and aloneness. I think it's because what I see is something I would enjoy, but it lacks something I'm looking for and so consequently all I really see are people going through the motions. Or perhaps I'm just consoling myself by saying that and really not admitting that what I feel is a terrible sense of loneliness that these events evoke. I see what is had and yet I cannot seem to have any of it. I look at these people and I have nothing to say or to offer. I realized something very important about how I handle social situations. Unless there is a very specific purpose to the event, it's hard for me to feel comfortable enough to initiate conversation. I'm great at in-person networking where I ask what do you do? But asking that at a fetish event does not exactly make one interesting...maybe I should start asking: What fetish do you do?

A friend of mine said, tonight, that she rarely feels the emptiness because as a priestess she is a vessel for whatever she works with. I'm not a priest. I'm a magician. I occasionally with entities or deities, but I am not filled by those deities. I'm not sure which of us is better off: Her being filled with whatever, good, bad, or otherwise, or me, empty, a person stumbling around, looking for something to fill that emptiness, which never quite gets filled.

At some point though (and this point incidentally is like now) you realize you can't fill it...that in fact maybe the point isn't to fill it. Emptiness can be about acceptance, as much as it can be about what is lacking. I can look at what I don't have and be filled with bitterness, anger, and fear, or I can accept what I don't have and let it go into that emptiness.

I've been experimenting with several meditation techniques in regards to emptiness. One I've done at fetish events, is to simply sit down and start meditating using Taoist breathing techniques and circulating the energy. This can lead to a very observant and mindful state of mind, and the emptiness ends up being channeled into energy I can feel...it becomes a current.

The second technique is one I've started adopting in the last couple of days. I go upstairs with a pillow. I have a blanket there...no heat on. I lay down initially in a pose which resembles the hanged man. One leg extended, the other bent, with the foot, placed beneath the other leg, arms outstretched, one eye open and one eye closed, One looking to the future, the other eye looking to the past. I eventually have to shift my legs...I'm still very flexible, but I can feel my age and it is uncomfortable to keep my one leg bent for a long period of time. This meditation can easily last an hour minimum, as it is very much a fluid state of being and one spread across time. Incidentally if you do this meditation, make sure no one disturbs you. The consequences can be unnerving as your sense of time is stretched out all over the place.

You basically end up drifting across time during this meditation. At the same time, all those feelings of emptiness just end up getting accepted and flow away into the river of time. I not only come away with an altered state of mind and a subconscious awareness of what to do next, and even some conscious manipulations of time, but I also come away a sense of great calm. Undoubtedly I'll be doing this meditation more, so keep your reader eyes peeled. I look into the past and the future. I am not present, because present doesn't exist, yet I have presence in all things and none, everything and nothing.

********

The last week has continued in a similar vein to the rest of this month. As I work with this element the past has been dug up. That's where the emptiness began, so it's fitting I go to the root of it in my explorations of this element. I use my meditation technique on days when the emptiness particularly feels present, so that I can work with that feeling, even as I extend my mind across time into memories of future and past.

The Emperor

In the course of getting involved in the Emptiness working, I've had an intriguing encounter with another pop culture entity, namely the Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars, aka Darth Sidious. It probably didn't help that until a couple weeks ago I was playing The Force Unleashed, wherein the character appears, but even so the appearance of this entity in the Emptiness working is appropriate since a lot of the emotions I'm dealing with would fall under the "Dark Side" of the spectrum. I am of course aware of just how treacherous and power hungry this particular entity is. Yet in dealing with the emotions I've encountered, he's been a quiet presence occasionally offering advice...though I have yet to shoot lightning from my hands. His advice has mainly consisted of allowing myself to feel the emotion and give it expression in the act of feeling it. For me the giving of expression to those emotions has involved some opening up, but also the dissolution of the meotion by feeling it, and the adding of that energy to the feeling of emptiness, which provides a sensation of a neutral mindset, with an enhanced awareness of my immediate environment as well as the patterns of behavior and action that people are involved in. Obviously this a bit different than how the Emperor is portrayed in Star Wars, and yet it seems appropriate. The emperor is a manipulator...to be an effective manipulator he needs to be able to observe others dispassionately...he needs to be able to be empty at times. While I don't intend to become a manipulator, I do know that learning to be comfortable with emptiness is learning to be comfortable with achieving a state of mind that flows with emotion, but doesn't let the emotion take control.

This has also lead into a new direction with my energy work: Learning how to dissolve my emotional energy without automatically cycling it via a Taoist technique. Instead, I'm dissolving the energ and settling it into the feeling of emptiness itself, which ends up actually infusing the energy into me. When working with energy like this, I feel the energy settle into a vast river or stream that is within the emptiness.

I am continuing to work with the Taoist styles of energetic work, but I also think there is some value toward what I'm exploring through the emptiness working. I'm also starting to realize just how much I need to make certain changes in some plans I have for the future...I have so much to share.

Book Reviews and a meditation on Emptiness

Book Reviews: Grammar for the Soul by Lawrence Weinstein While not a typical book that one might associate with spiritual techniques, this book proved rather intriguing because the author examines how punctuation, tenses, clauses, passivity, etc is used in language to communicate and also empower an individual. As someone who consistently is interested in exploring the connection between language and spiritual techniques, I also found this book useful for considering how I could not only improve my writing, but also improve the efficacy of my magical workings when it came to using language.

Each chapter is only a few pages long, but the author manages to include a lot of information as well as samples for how grammar can be used to empower and communicate, as well as create personal change. The author's narrative is friendly and approachable. I didn't feel lost in a sea of grammar rules. If anything, I felt that I could easily navigate grammar's laws and use them to my benefit, both for my writing and my sense of self.

If I have one quibble with this book, it's that the author didn't include exercises for the reader. While the examples he used were illustrative of how to improve one's writing skills as well as how to use writing to effect personal change, the lack of exercises can keep the reader from realizing the book's full potential, unless they are already active writers. That said, I'd give this book a 4.5 out of 5.

Book Review: The Mind and the Brain by Jeffery Schwartz and Sharon Begley

This book was probably the most fascinating book I read about neuroscience and that's saying something since I find all of them fascinating. In this book the author explains neuroplasticity and how it continues to work in the brains of an adult as well as a child. The author also reviews many of the neuroscience experiments and projects done by various people as well as how those projects have confirmed the efficacy of mindful practices in controlling our habits and thoughts.

What I found really fascinating was how the author's work with OCD patients help them overcome that affliction by learning how to rewire the thought patterns. Equally interesting is the focus on how we can deliberately change our brains not only to heal, but also to continue sharpening our skills. For people interested in the intersection of neuroscience and magic, this book is a must read. 5 out 5

*******

A Meditation on Emptiness

Last night, while at the Deacon X fetish event, I again felt myself feeling empty...I think it was a continuing realization that with everything going on there, I had a sense of loneliness, a sense of not feeling satisfied...a realization, again, that this emptiness is not something that can be cured by the presence of anyone person...that it is something that can be ignored or sometimes not felt, but it is still a fundamental part of life. I felt a moment of anger and frustration...part of me wanted to walk out and just keep walking...but instead of doing that I sat down, and start a Taoist breathing meditation, opening myself up to that feeling of emptiness, accepting it. As I breathed I circulated my energy into that feeling of emptiness and felt my emotions swirl into the energy until I felt very calm. And I felt the emptiness reach out and start teaching me something I could do with the circulating energy to not only calm myself, but direct the emptiness I felt. I directed it into my hands, which I would later put to good use at said event ;)

Still what I came away with is that emptiness can be worked with...not just felt but worked with, which will make the oncoming elemental year very interesting indeed.

The process of internal work

I think the hardest aspect of internal work is when you face the root of the issue that you're working on.. On one hand, you now know what you're really dealing with. On the other hand, you're also faced with the question of, "Now what?" I was thinking of that today as I walked around the local park, working through an issue that I've been struggling with the last couple of weeks. I generally find in doing internal work that there are four stages that occur. The first stage is a sudden realization that something is bothering you. You can't quite pinpoint what it is that's bothering you beyond dealing with the immediate experience that you're involved in. That immediate situation is really just a symptom of the actual problem. It definitely needs to be addressed, but chances are it's based on a behavior pattern that can really deep into the past. It's a reaction to the original core issue...but you don't know what that issue is yet...you can identify characteristics...I feel jealous about X or this made me angry, which comes in handy later on, but the symptom is just that...it's a symptom...it's pain's it's something sending a message that something is wrong. Once you've dealt with the symptom, you still have a ways to go.

Stage 2 is digging. You start comparing the characteristics of the latest situation with the characteristics of previous situations where you suspected you acted in a similar manner. For instance, if you found yourself competing with someone because you felt jealous, you would look in your past for related incidents with other people. By finding a relationship, you could then begin to trace the issue back to the root cause of it.

Stage 3 is discovery of the root cause, or if you will the root emotion. For instance, just because you feel jealousy in incidents where you compete with someone, you shouldn't assume that jealousy is the motivating emotion. Remember, it's a symptom, so while jealousy is an emotion in its own right, it may just be a symptom of what you're feeling at your core. Perhaps, for instance, you are competing and feeling jealous because you really want to feel acceptance from other people. Acceptance is definitely not the same emotion as jealousy, but it can inspire jealousy depending on how acceptance is obtained. Once you know what the root cause is, you're at the now what stage. You've identified the root problem, and you're consciously aware of it. Congratulations! But now you have to figure out what you will do with what you've discovered. This can be hard to figure out, because you're also facing what really motivates the behavior you want to change and facing that root cause can be a bit of a doozy.

Stage four is figuring out what you'll do now that you know what's motivating your behavior. You've got a few options:

A. Do nothing. This might seem like the easiest, but unless you are completely comfortable with the behavior and the consequences that result from it, this will come back and bite you in the ass until you decide to really make a change.

B. See a therapist. Working with a therapist can help you explore these issues safely with another person present. Also the therapist will to some degree hold you accountable to make a change. This option can be combined with option C

C. Utilize a form of mindful awareness to consciously monitor yourself. This is greatly enhanced by pathworking, meditation, energy work, or some other form of internal work. This can be done without option B, though I'll note this can be tough work and will challenge you because as you dissolve the issues, you also leave room for more subtle issues to rear their head. I recommend that if you choose to do only this option that you also make sure that you know you can stop and see a therapist at any time. Don't go deeper than you are comfortable with. I will note that using meditation and mindful awareness for the last three and a half years has definitely helped me dissolve a lot of unhealthy behaviors, but it's been intense work and sometimes fairly wearing. I know what keeps me focused on doing it is the awareness that as I continue to do this work, I am getting healthier and happier and I consciously know what informs my choices.

I am still doing a lot of internal work. The stages I described here, are pretty accurate to the kind of work I've been doing. Internal work isn't necessarily glamorous or something very overt. It doesn't require much in the way of magical tools, or sigils, but the payoff I think is that you are more conscious of your choices and can control yourself more readily...and the need to do magic to solve problems actually goes down because you're no longer acting out your unhealthy behaviors.

The next element is...

Even though I have two months to go to finish up the elemental love working, last night I got definite confirmation on what the next element will be. I'd actually been getting some hints before this, but last night brought it to the fore quite nicely. I find with this kind of work that you usually do get notice a couple months beforehand. It's really a transition period. You move out of one element and into the other. So what's the element I'll be working with come Mid October?

Zero, Emptiness, the void.

Last night My wife and I went to the Deacon X Fetish night. We danced some. At some point though as I looked around at all the beautiful goth people decked out in their various costumes, I felt no connection. I could hear in my mind the hungry ghosts of desire as I watched some people involved in kink scenes...how much I yearned for certain experiences, as well as regrets about certain choices, thinking for a moment I could've had that...I felt empty and with that emptiness came up all those hungry ghosts, all of those desires. I looked at the various people and I felt empty because whatever they were experiencing wasn't something I could have in that one moment. So I sat and I watched the people in their play and dance. And at some point the voices of those hungry ghosts quieted and I felt just emptiness, nothing else, and there was peace. I felt a great calmness enter me. I began doing the Taoist dissolving breath and meditated while I watched those people. I still felt no connection to them, but I felt a great emptiness, a great circle of zero and I was content. There was nothing and with nothing the potential for everything. I sat there for a while and meditated.

Working with emptiness next makes sense to me, because a lot of the love working has involved revealing that emptiness to me. With my interests in Buddhism and Taoism, it will be interesting to see where this takes me, but for now I've got another two months for the love work.

On the Art Of Return

The last three years have been quite busy for me, and there's aspects of my meditative practice that I minimized or ignored (at times while starting other practices), so I've engaged in a comprehensive effort to return to them. A lot of my work involved abdominal breathing and energy work, which required gradual build-up in order to realize (with deep abdominal breathing your entire breathing changes).  So my first goal was to merely repeat my previous works and build back up the way I had before.

And after a few months, my breathing work wasn't going so well -  I stalled out and didn't make any progress.

This was frustrating and curious to me at the same time.  I'd done this before, but suddenly I had no progress despite having done some deep breathwork for years.  How could I now be stumped?

After a lot of analysis, work, and quite a few other methods, I came to the rather simple conclusion that it wasn't working because, having achieved some deeper states of breathing, my attempts to repeat it didn't work because I was in a different state of mind.

  • I'd had experiences from my past breath work that set different expectations - expectations I didn't have the last time.
  • Some of the exercises i was using were frankly unnecessary - I was restraining myself from deeper practice by deliberately forcing shallower practices that I could frankly leapfrog.

In short, I was a different person, with different experiences and a different state of mind.  The proper "prescription" was not repeating my past work, but finding how to approach it in a way that worked for who I'd become.  I knew how to ride the bike, so training wheels were just a distraction.

Despite our hope for regular practice, our meditative and magical practices are interrupted at points.  However as we leap back to them, we have to keep in mind that once we achieve certain skills and have certain experiences, the paths that led us there may not be entirely the ones we have to take again.

Energy Work update

I've recently been working with Mantak Chia's Cosmic Fusion energy technique, which builds off the elemental fusion work. I've so far done two of the trigrams, and I'm going to add the third tonight with the breath work I'm doing. The benefits I'm noticing are a stronger cleaning out of the energetic and physical body, but also a condensing of the energy being recycled...so basically it enhances the elemental fusion work. I have to say that the Taoist system of energy work is probably the most thorough one I've worked with so far, especially because the emphasis is on integrating the energy work into the body. I feel the effects and my health has improved because of doing the energy work. It's much easier to maintain my energetic reserves as well. I'll post updates as I continue with integrating it into my life.