Monday, September 2, 2013

Karma Burns

The tall slim one sits in a lawn chair on the terrace at the mountain palace gazing placidly over the fabulous vista. The glint of his sunglasses, perfectly perched upon his nose, and the flash of the big grin on his face flirt playfully with the beaming sun. The smirk on his face knows that the exile had been self-imposed. His body is healing, recovering from a long period of living in the tool shed's broom closet's tattered hammock, forgotten in the rush of life's expectations and expediencies. Gone now are the broom closet's rags. His clothing is impeccably matched in odd hues of yellow and green, and still draped rather gauntly over his overly pointy shoulders. Out here on the terrace, there are the beginnings of some meat on his bones and a healthy glow to his skin. His lungs relish the relief from the closet's musty choke of rags and acrid sting of turpentine. He shrugs unhurriedly and emits a soft chuckle as his brain lights up with a plethora of sublime misfit notions. He is not at all tempted to do the bidding of others, but in a manner more devil-may-care than cavalier. Nothing can impinge this congenial, cantankerous, charismatic mongrel.

In a parallel universe, the small, pudgy, sensitive lamb-child under the stadium bleachers looks out from beneath his bangs, eyes as big as saucers and shimmering with the wet sheen of worry and hurt and shame. He had been hiding and had ever so greatly desired to be discovered. He considers this new reunion as a clear sign that his endearing awkwardness is fully understood. He knows now that he will not be rushed to emerge, that he can stay here as long as he needs to. The critical voices castigating him incessantly to grow up, buck up, cheer up, give up, have subsided. His cringy neck releases with a crack as he cries openly, embracing every delicious painful moment he has endured. This reunion is different, he feels. It dawns on him that what is different is simply that he feels, that the feelings are back. He is not yet fully able to wield the power of this intuitive wormhole. But it has already ignited his heart and made him well up with tears. He is loved. He is love. Everything he feels is love. Every urge, every drive, every interest, every awkward embarrassed feeling, all of it love. He is beautiful. The world embraces him, caresses his heart with the utmost of care, creates a space for all that he is within all that becomes. He is timidly surprised at the revelation that there is nothing that he can do to cause the end of the world; even these gigantic feelings bring no end, cause no death, not even his own, but seem to bring ever more life. There is no misunderstanding that wants not to be resolved. Every encounter is written in the stars, and provides a script for him to enact, and from which to build and to absorb new life into the power and majesty of his ever-shining light. Oh, gape and growl, he fires shots of big playful love out of every pore, shots that illuminate all the self-conscious, hyper-aware moments that build like runaway trains, full of outsized terror and confusion, and then cause them to fade away harmless as the most ordinary of days, like the blink of an eye and the billow of misty breath on a crisp cloudless morning.

These were the bits of himself he had left behind, those pieces he had torn away and then cast asunder under the unconscious crush of formative days. Circumstance had born these bits into being as a perfect culmination, a singular life. Releasing thought, he sees this process unfold against a backdrop of impartiality and indifference so vast that it flips into absolute love. The process has a distinct direction; it is not random but points toward wholeness. Out of wholeness he hears his life as a cacophony of deafening echoes which ordinarily consume the entirety of his attention. These two quieter echoes, older and exiled from his attention, had now rejoined his experience, fully grown but grotesquely immature.

The powers that these two echoes had held in their exile were staggering. He contemplates their magical gifts, aghast at the richness they could unlock. It was now all starting to come powerfully into focus. He felt a giddy excitement as reality ceased to cave in but instead began to blossom outward, as every new occurrence resulted not in death but in further fuel for life.

He contemplates how these exiles, and now their returns, had come to pass. So many things that had seemed random and senseless now slotted into perfect place. He had pretended that there was no connection between events, circumstances, friends, family, colleagues, weather, super novae and quantum superposition. He had regarded all these as strangers with no shared experience and no underlying unity. Everyone and everything that he had passed by, every event that had seemed not to involve him, had faded into the blur of the unconscious. But they each had held equally the potential to express the mission of his life. He could have collided with any person, any action, any quark. The same exiles and returns would have ensued, the same lessons, the unavoidable tinge and tenor of karma, even if the specific content would have been vastly different.

He looks at the people in his life, the ones that were there when projects were initiated, when money was needed for survival, when desires cried out for fulfillment. They were the collisions that happened to be near at hand at those ripening times. Looking in from the wordless backdrop they seem just as random as any grouping of people he might encounter would seem randomly constituted. But from within the capsule of this living, all connections have become meaningful; they are his mirror.

He looks at the works he has created in his life, the ones that seemed unavoidable, that compelled him like an itch on tender skin. These were the works that had seemed of acute importance, and which had been unleashed on his own unsuspecting world. Anyone could have created them, and he felt that somehow they chose him rather than the other way around. These works hold special meaning and are attempts in and of themselves to impart that meaning. They are his mirrors.

The karma burns brightly in this living. He shares the load. He knows it could not be any different. He has come to this space for yet another opportunity to see. If he sees clearly, then he may pass through experience gracefully and with love, and the journey will continue with all the essential characters to the next scene. If he sees not well, he knows that the same rich reflections will greet him next time he looks in the mirror. He knows that he must fully embody the mechanations with which he has arrived in this life, and see them through together with his compatriots. He knows that he will grow stronger in this process, and that to turn away from it is to turn away from wholeness. There is pain; he is going through the fire here and now. But he decides to go all the way through to the other side. He dives in against the screaming objections of his scheming mind, with the utter certainty that there is no right path but through. He will burn all of this in the karmic fires, expanding his heart to both his self and to the ones with whom he has collided on his life's path.

He discovers the fire's fuel. It is self-love. This is a finely tuned, incomprehensible paradox for his ego. The fuel mixes best and burns most brightly with precisely those situations that bring up the fear, the fast-beating heart, the adrenaline. These are the situations that his ego tells him will lead to death, is if through some kind of metaphysical overwhelm, and through its drive for preservation had compelled him to exile pieces of himself as sacrifices to the demons of karmic indifference. Now having discovered this subtle fuel of self-love, which superficially seems a notion of the utmost egoic obsession, he conjoins with it and it then releases him from such notions altogether.

He thinks about his life's beginnings, when this attention joined a physical body in formation. He considers this primordial choice of differentiation, when he started his journey of encapsulation, to this moment now, this moment of separate life crowded with the people and things he has attracted and sought. He sees it all as if in dream, a dream that contains the sense of objective reality as well as persistent glimpses beyond it. Suspending his mind now into the wordless backdrop he opens his heart and listens to its echoes. It says its deepest wish is to ignite a fire that engulfs the universe.


  1. Hi Jason, Terrific piece, which seems to be written from a kind of Archimedean Point, by means of which the inner world has the leverage to bring about changes in the cosmos, and the cosmos has the leverage to open and then reconfigure the once locked inner world, but in such a way that, on the surface, it is not at all apparent that any change has occurred. I love this section: “He is timidly surprised at the revelation that there is nothing that he can do to cause the end of the world; even these gigantic feelings bring no end, cause no death, not even his own, but seem to bring ever more life. There is no misunderstanding that wants not to be resolved. Every encounter is written in the stars, and provides a script for him to enact, and from which to build and to absorb new life into the power and majesty of his ever-shining light.” The movement of the piece is reminiscent of Vipassana meditation, in which all of the contents of the various layers of the body and the mind are allowed to bubble up in order that we may register and then release them. This is Vipassana slowed down, however, and perhaps joined with the technique of active imagination, so that each intuition is magnified, weighed, and examined from a multitude of angles before, at the end, being released into empty space.

    1. Thanks, Brian. Yes, it's so true that on the surface it is not at all apparent that any change has occurred. We burn karma yet we are still subject to the same ebbs and flows of life, the laws of physics and processes of biology as they pertain to physical beings. I've always like the image in which our lives are a process of moving experience up through the energetic stages, layers, and out the top of the head to source, empty space. It mixes with what we bring into being along the way, and nothing is real except what we hold onto, what we consciously or unconsciously refuse to release.