Sunday, April 8, 2018

Anthony: a story of spontaneous awakening

He woke up to his true nature in prison.  High security prison in the high desert area of northeastern California. 
He understands the gift of it now and he call the incarceration a divine intervention.  Most of his buddies that were “running the muck”, as he says, are dead. He tried to die several times too, he was lost in the great suffering of addiction.  Several times he tried to overdose and swam fully clothed far into the ocean, until he would loose the strength, only to find himself coming to senses hours later, miles from where he would go in.  The ocean would spill him out, unconscious, to the same Monterey Bay shores, the land of his ancestors.

He is Native American, his tribe called Amah Matsun still not recognized by Federal government, though his ancestors lived on this land, around the Bay, for centuries before anyone else stepped their foot here. As most Native Americans, he didn’t have great childhood, his ancestors were either killed, or converted by white people to Christianity. They were given alcohol that was not properly assimilated in their bodies due to the absence of specific enzymes, therefore strong addiction and death from it is common among Native American Indians. They were stripped from their ways of living, history, rituals, language, names.  

How to take in the world as it is now and pretend that it is alright to be a refugee  in your own land?  How not to feel the ancestral suffering of a mass henocide that no-one wants to know and hear about? How to witness the destruction of the land and nature when you were stripped from any rights and stewardship on your own soil? I can understand why his grandfather drunk, why his father drunk, why he was drinking and using anything that would make him not to feel.  And he understood it too, in prison.  He finally understood why he was trying to kill himself, why he was addicted to drugs and alcohol for big part of his adult life, with exception of some years where he was sober and was trying to lead normal life, raising a son.

He was on a run for a long, long time.  He was running from feeling it all, running from feeling the immense sorrow of his people. Running from grief stuffed in their throats and kept there in order to survive the extermination.

One day the cops came, and though he was mad at them and the system, and the term was indeed imposed unlawfully, he is now grateful for the second chance to live.  He is open to feel with his whole being, doesn’t matter it is hardships or joys of life, difficult or easy, pleasant or unpleasant: “Elena, I am feeling it, and this is what it is all about to be a human, it is a blessing!”

He was told his mother died while he was incarcerated.  Suddenly the immense feeling of loss and quilt was too big to run from, he was sober and vulnerable, but he didn’t have any skills to deal with the feeling neither.  The prison environment was too brutal to show any traces of feeling, it would be perceived as weakness.  Prison is not a place where you cry openly and get comforted.  The only way with a grief of such magnitude in such conditions is to shut down the outer expression completely and dive with it inside.

His story reminded me of long vipassana retreat.  Of cause, when you sign up for a retreat you sign up voluntary, later on you would want to run away many times, and at those times you would see your predicament as you are for the term with no escape. Doing the time, you burn on the fires of inner hell, while the anger gets rushed to the surface of the mind, completely overtake the psyche of the seemingly still body. You get hot, cold, lightheaded, sometimes you feel you are going to loose it, the pain, physical and emotional, is too overwhelming not to act on it. You literary burn and sweat it out through the pores of your being. Naturally the body needs to react to the feeling by movement, by changing position to ease up on the pain, by acting out, by getting laud, crying, by taking some tranquilizer, by anything that would help to stop this violent movement of overwhelming emotion and unbearable sensations it brings. But this is the liberating qualities of vipassana.  If you do not act on the pain, the pain will arise, will get bigger, it will expand and take all the available space, until every corner of your being is saturated with it, then suddenly one day it will break down into milliards of subatomic particles, erasing any solidity of the body/mind organism, making the cycle complete.  It is an ancient technique of mind purification through awareness and equanimity to pain, and some of us stumble on it completely accidentally.

Grief of losing his mother while he was locked up, was immense. The prison had no private place to be, even the cells and a bathroom in it had no solid walls to hide behind.  With the heart split open by loss, he went deep inside his own self, he didn’t have another choice, he let the feeling be, it was too big to try to manage it. The feeling overtook his whole being, and one day he just dropped all the superficial shields, and got bare real.

He left a prison a bit disoriented.  He was released early for good work and exhibition of a good character, given a few dollars to get by, he spent it all to get back to Monterey by several transit buses.  He arrived early in the morning. It was raining. With a plastic bag of all his life possessions in it, he exited a bus, looked around and started to walk.  He kept walking under the rain, since he really didn’t know what else to do, or where to go. Walking under the rain without an aim, with nothing to hold on to, he became the rain, the path, the walking.  Ideas of who he was washed out under that rain.

He doesn’t really know what happened to him, he just knows he wasn’t the same anymore.  The world wasn’t the same. What was that? What happened?  He only knows he doesn't need to run from anything anymore, no feeling is too big to feel.      He feels the world as himself, very acutely.  In the world that he couldn’t bear, he found his own rules to live by. He lives and is moved by love. The mind is still there, and still thinking old thoughts, but the thoughts are not believed anymore with old conviction.  Everything seems the same and not, at the same time.

Someone gave him an old bicycle, he started to work as a painting contractor again. Same work, same life, same town, but something major happened, he couldn't explain it to himself, and he wasn’t looking for the explanations. He kept the old character of Tony that was at least something familiar, same scrapie voice, same construction guy vocabulary.  As time pass more, couple of old friends noticed changes in Tony, but they attributed it only to being sober.

He was a good painter even before, and now he became a true master of his craft.  He paint as he dances, one with the rhythm of the brush.  He feels the brush as an extension of his hand, and his whole being. He turns on Native American music on his iphone. You would think he puts the pain on the walls, in reality he covers the walls with his energy, tinted in color.  His mind is still when he is into intricate details, and is joyful when he has more space to play with.  This probably was noticed by some building contractors, who hired him to work again and again, and eventually became his new friends.

One day on a porch of the housing complex where she lived at the time and he worked on the room next door to hers, they met, and their beings merge in a split second, without consent of the mind. The gaze was too strong to behold, he turned away, feeling forbidden territory, as he was not worthy of her, while she proceed with an attitude of a queen that just got looked at by the servant.  Both still under the spell of the old stories in the mind, unquestioned they run our lives where, how, and with whom, all determent there, in the established passages of the brain.  

When the being suddenly expands to its limitless state in the experience of awakening, it truncates the character, the limited self identity, along with the neurological passages in the brain on which this identity is held. It re-arranges, deletes old and creates new pristine passages, sending millions of neurons as a lighting bolt through the brain in an instant. Coming back to an old life environment, surely the neurons will try to sneak in by the old route, it is like dry arroyos in a desert, abandoned by water flow, but still holding the shape, just in case if the rain comes, the water will rush through these erosions without hesitation. The old character will try to hold on, old habits and patterns will execute in a second.  Yes, she tried to run away, yes, he was unsure about himself, but behind the meeting of the old characters, the larger meeting happened: the being met the being, the new energies recognized each other, the frequencies of limitless awareness merged in an instant. The meeting was complete.

She was the first one to see the vastness of him, the fullness of his being.  He almost made her believe in an old character that barely fit him, but she was taken by the power and the innocence in him  that she felt.  With her keen sensitivity she noticed the nuances in a pitch of his voice.  He had a very deep ageless voice, but sometimes he would start talking in the tone that was difficult for her to listen to.  It would feel like the sharp knife through her senses, and was almost painful. This fascinating exploration came absolutely spontaneous to her. She just was sensitive to the vibration of the tone, and noticed from where the voice would come from in the body itself: in the sacral or in the throat.  Every time the voice would originate from the throat, the expression was coming from old thought forms, like something belonging to an old character.  She just had to point this discrepancy, there was not much explanation needed, it was also obvious to him, very clear, right in the moment. It was easy to see it for him and relax, then the voice would freely drop down to the sacral. And usually this would bring the pause, a short period of silence, as though he was feeling, trying on those old thought forms in a relaxed way.  In a very short time with this uncompromising biofeedback, he just settled in the new frequencies of his new voice and grounded himself into a new character.  She called him Anthony.  Old Tony was gone.  

She started to give the vocabulary to his experience. Awakening, awakening to Presence, Being.  She was on the path to awakening through many years of the spiritual search, he arrived spontaneously.  Awakening is always a spontaneous event, but some of us are more prepared to it then others of what to expect.  Luckily, there is not much one needs to understand, one only needs validation that what they experienced is a known phenomena, it is true, it is authentic experience, they can trust it, and it will take time, perhaps the rest of their life, to re-orient themselves and to integrate the new perception of who they are into the experience of being a human.  

In Buddhism there are what called, three jewels.  The presence of them properly supports awakening, and would make an ideal environment for integrating the new way of being, especially right after the initial experience. Three jewels are: Buddha (a teacher), Dharma (teachings), Sangha( spiritual community).  Anthony had none of this support, she came as all three jewels to him.

She also needed the same support.  She was couple of years into very intense integration of awakening journey herself, the journey of complete demolition of the life she knew, outer and inner.  When they met she already had her house taken by a fire, her husband taken by another woman, her good health taken by autoimmune illness. She left her managerial job, unable to perform. She left her son to start his adult life. She withdrew from teaching others, she felt she needed fully integrate before she ever speak and guide again.  She was on the road for couple of years, driving the country, exploring her sudden freedom. She retired most of the old identities, her life had no goals, no structure, no certainty, no ways to know, and she was completely open to it all.  With that lightness of being she ended up in Big Sur,CA in the community called Esalen, where she joined the kitchen in an exchange for a room, meals, access to famous mineral baths, and mostly, time to reflect on her life and make no demands on herself how to support herself financially.  She came for a month, and stayed for a year, prolonging her stay one month at a time, almost as she was waiting for his journey to complete itself and bring him to paint those adjacent rooms, and later, hers too.

From a book I am writing: Buddha on a Bull  
Practical guidance on Seeking, Finding and Living Enlightenment through the story of an ordinary woman in search for freedom.

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Born in June 2011 out of inspiration to share how to end life long spiritual search, drop the observer, and return back to naturalness we are.

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