Saturday, April 26, 2008

More Transformation Exercises From Rob Brezsny

Here are some more pespective challenging and altering exercises from Rob Brezsny's book *PRONOIA IS THE ANTIDOTE FOR PARANOIA: How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings* which is available for sale at


Experiments and exercises in becoming a mysteriously truthful, teasingly healing, fiercely magnanimous Master of Impartial Passion

1. What three ideas do you hate most? Pretend you believe those ideas devoutly. Write about them as if they were the cornerstones of your philosophy of life.

2. The Shinto monks of Iso, Japan, have a curious custom. Every 20 years since the year 772, they've dismantled their central shrine and rebuilt it from scratch. In so doing, they pass down the knowledge of their sacred construction techniques from generation to generation. It's also an effective way for the monks to participate eagerly in the transitoriness of life, rather than merely being resigned to it. They practice the art of death and rebirth not just in meditation but through a practical long-term ritual.

Can you think of an analogous custom you might create for your personal use?

3. There is a disproportionate abundance of evil stepmothers in traditional fairy tales. Storyteller Michael Meade believes that's because the stepmother is a symbol of the soul's nemesis, and everyone has a nemesis. In fact, he says, we all need a nemesis to keep us honest, to challenge our assumptions and call our bluffs. With this in mind, brainstorm a short fairy tale in which you're rearranged during a visit from a stepmother.

4. We're acquainted with a group of Hell's Angels that has a unique way of honoring the deceased. Once a year the gang throws a party in the cemetery where their fallen comrades are buried, pouring beer on and snorting coke off their graves. Think about developing a similar approach to dealing with the dead parts of your own life. Don't just cry mournfully over the dreams and influences that have helped make you what you are. Dance for them; sing for them; leap into the air and kiss the sky for them.

5. Oceans are not exactly teeming with life. In fact, they're mostly barren, ancould rightly be called "wet deserts." Likewise, not all your emotions, even those that come in floods, are fertile. Some are automatic reactions that have discharged thousands of times since they were first programmed into you many years ago. They're mechanical, not organic. They became fixtures when you were a very different person than you are now. Identify these.

6.We all have a war going on inside ourselves. What's yours? Is it a just and fruitful war or a senseless and wasteful war, or both?

7. Hundreds of years ago, it was seemingly possible to buy forgiveness. Until Martin Luther came along to spoil the fun, the Catholic Church used to sell "indulgences," which buyers could supposedly trade in purgatory for a reduced punishment for their earthly sins. The forgiveness freaks at the Beauty and Truth Laboratory have revived this practice in a mutated form. For the right price, we're able to guarantee your absolution. To take advantage of our offer, simply send us a million dollars for each sin you want to have forgiven.

There's just one condition: You can't pay us with the government's legal tender. You must make the money—literally. Using crayons, paints, scissors, glue, collage materials, or other media, create your own version of large-denomination paper money. Instead of the images of politicians that typically appear on government currency, draw pictures of your muses and heroes and friends and pets. Rather than patriotic clich├ęs and meaningless decorative frills, add sayings and symbols that make you happy. Be sure to write a description of the sin you want "indulged" somewhere on the bill. Send your payment to the Beauty and Truth Laboratory at P.O. Box 150628, San Rafael, CA 94915.

"What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a
- Chuang Tse

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Poem About Renewal

Everything is Brand New

Something our six-month old knows
by heart, looking up at a winding gull;
hypnotized by the movement
of a palm tree.

During a long sail on a catamaran
her eyes are up in the canvass and she startles
when it flaps. Later, anchored under the sun,

she rocks and sleeps while I take my own
cynicism and regret, all fifty years of it, and
for the first time with mask and snorkel
drop under this swelling sea.

The last of its dying corals move
in milky bliss – angelfish and fans, crowds
of undulating jewels with fins,

everything brand new to me. Then
five barracuda arrive, a sleeker design than I.
I wind between them and, suspended,
they watch me pass. Startled by their size, clumsy,

in their vanishing world, I swim through, hypnotized.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Swimming With Dolphins

I have some new and powerful images now that come to me unbidden and with a dreamlike and perspective-altering frequency and quiet joy.

In these self-starting little vignettes I am pushing quite quickly across the water in fins and a mask and suddenly three dolphins, two stacked to one side and one to the other, surround me, look right at me, and coast along side of me for a while. All of a sudden they curve away, all in one direction and I am able to follow that turn for a while… our eyes locked as if the directions have been passed to me through eye contact alone. Other little mind-embraced youtube-like inner videos also involve dolphins catching up to me under the blur and muffled silence of water to swim beside me for a while… always looking right at me.

I was a little ambivalent about paying to have this experience, the experience of swimming with dolphins. I have not been sure of how such activity affects the dolphins themselves. And I am not sure how one would guarantee such facilities are primarily dolphin-centered, no matter how much they claim to be research facilities from which their discoveries and studies are actually invaluable to finding ways to support the continued existence of cetaceans (dolphins and whale and their water-dwelling mammal kin) in the wild.

I have had experiences while swimming in the ocean in which dolphins, swimming by all day in groups of threes and fours, sometimes approach quite closely as I stand to try to catch the next wave. They always seemed to approach and continue approaching until a little fear rose in me that had something to do with their size and their wildness… and then they would arc away until the next group came by. Why am I, and many others, compelled to seek out the company of dolphins? Why are we willing to wait for them to come to us in the water?

I don’t know. I have had many close and moving experiences with wild life over the years. My swims in the north woods lakes with loons have always left me lighter and convinced of the evolutionary basis of inter species empathy…that it is not just the province of the supposedly superior human development. But my swim with dolphins was different than the others.

For one thing I love to swim. I am at home in the water and feel completely relaxed by it. I have relationship to beings that live there. Perhaps I am envious. Years ago I remember reading articles that claimed that humans had actually evolved to live in the water (long head hair was supposed to be an evolutionary adaptation so that young humans had something to hang on to) and remaining quite skeptical about that, but intrigued to the point of “what if?”… especially as I swam and dived in a favorite body or water or a newly found and exciting place to swim. Maybe it was possible?

The dolphins have in some ways renewed that feeling of a lack of clear divisions with other mammals that have successfully returned to the sea… and done it smartly and in a mysteriously cogent and sophisticated manner that appears to include very real systems of communication, emotional connections with others, as well as a wish to communicate, be with, other species… even ones like ours that threaten their very survival.

Did my swim with them heal me in some way? This is the myth is it not? I am not sure. Swimming with them was a real work out though… and while I was doing it I was so in the moment and completely rapt by the ways they would surround me in the water, swim with me for a ways (the ‘trainers” would shout out “Bob!, Bob! to your left… they’re coming to check you out again!”) and be off again beyond the point that I could see them, that I was unaware of how they were burrowing into some unconscious store of images… that is until a few hours later when the images of swimming with them kept rising up as I went about my other routine activities of the day. I kept seeing them seeing me, moving through the muffled syrupy world of the sea, acknowledging some relationship, wanted to see and be seen… wanting to know.

They have skin you know. It is quite soft. Like the feel of a peeled egg in a bowl of water. This has nothing to do with fish or scales. It could very well be our skin should we ever develop leg muscles that send us effortlessly through the deep at twenty-five mile an hour.

I suppose I should tell you about the barracudas I swam near as well. Toothy silver torpedoes that I did not recognize as barracudas (among the hordes of brilliant reef fishes and waving coral) as I arrived in the midst of about five or six of them, suspended in the water… one at least four feet long… I thought barracudas had stripes. But no, these hung nearly motionless as the water sloshed the purple fans and long tentacles of the corals nearby. I felt no threat. Not until I got back in the boat and was told what they were. I think they were watching me as well.