Four in the morning is the underbelly of the day. Too late for most late night Revellers. Too early for the Earlybirds. It belongs to those who are without the healing peace of sleep. When the city is still. When only the odd cricket sings. There stirs a drama of unspoken words, thoughts, emotions that come alive only when the tough hide of the day, when the categories of what gets named, who gets paid, and how people seem - is gone, like the sun, somewhere else.
While the coffee drips, I perform a small ritual. I take the three boxes of empties; wine bottles and beer cans left over from our housewarming, across the street for Bill to find. It's a pittance of an offering. It rids me of the task of taking them to collect the deposit. But to Bill, I figure, it’ll be a sweet find.
I first noticed him a few weeks ago edging along the sidewalk with his walker. Stooped, small, and bony wearing hand-off clothes that hung too big for his skeleton, Bill held onto that walker like he was on a tightrope. And then - he let it go! He left the sidewalk and ventured up a few concrete stairs in from of the apartment building beside the Rooming House. He had my attention!
Then - when he left the stairs and crept around behind the wrought iron railing – stopping to get his footing as if riding a storm-tossed ship – he half-stepped his way down the steep grassy embankment to get to street level behind the low stone and steel fence. I wondered at his dare-devilry.
Bill stooped and lifted the prize. An empty. All that effort for an empty! I was amazed at the dedication to his chosen profession. And when he lifted the can and drained the dregs down his gullet – I saw the savage thirst at play in Bill’s day-to-day struggle to make a living. His Holy Grail was the next drink. His daily adventure was the quest to slake that thirst – and it took all he had – body, mind and soul.
Perhaps the boxes I left would deprive him of the satisfaction of the hunt? Would they steal away the pride of this valiant knight’s quest? Would this cheaply given charity cost him – or would he give a shit? Pride is for daytime.
The Hero of our story, of every Quest story, of my story and yours, must – at some point - leave behind the daytime categories of the status quo.
If s/he is to heal the wound, restore the peace, conquer the dragon, tame the demon dis-ease that’s possessed the land, s/he must cross into the underworld.
And before this adventure begins, a visit to the Wise Ones is in order. S/he cannot go on this quest unarmed. The sword and shield (diploma and resume) that serve in the daytime world are not enough. The trusty battle horse (or SUV) are not capable of crossing into this watery domain. Other-worldly tools are required.
Monday, I took my ass up to Carnarvon, to the creek that runs between Little and Big Hawk Lakes, to visit SoulWinds where my teachers live. It was winter the last time I’d been there. Then, all was frozen and sleeping – white and grey. Now the green energy was exploding in colours everywhere I looked – greens and reds and all hues of the spectrum.
I had questions for them. I wanted something solid to hold onto as I ventured into this world of artistry and unemployment. I thought that I needed some missing thing, some tool I lacked, some unknown weapon that they could give me to take on my way.
What they offered was what we all come equipped with – but perhaps take for granted. Air, Water, and Sunshine.
Ayuna reminded me that when I’m trying to float in these dark waters, I need to inhale deeply enough to expand my lungs - to make me “float”. When I “exhale”, when things become smaller and tighter - when I depend on my thinking, when I let my brain control my breathing - the short, small, gasps don’t feed my larger self. When breaths come in short pants like weekly paycheques – me holding my breath until…until…until – then my body is starved of the juice it requires.
When I let my brain compute my existence. When I let my persona become categorized by a title, a job description, a series of labels that describe my worth. When my value gets calculated according to the daytime marketplace exchanges of the coin of the realm – my soul becomes deprived of the oxygen that is free of such small, defined and confined restrictions.
My soul is fed by the four winds that surround this blue green planet. They bring the unforeseen surprises of each day. They bring the weather. Whether or not I want it - notice it or try to ignore it – the winds bring me the opportunity to inhale their expansive free life-giving gift.
But if I forget to breathe deeply, if I’m too caught up in the costs and calculations of the “what ifs”, if I’m worrying away my day without NOTICING this one true free opportunity to feed my soul, my bloodstream, my muscles and sinews and yes - my brain with this elemental food – then I’m depriving my self and depending on an oxygen-starved, overworked computer to get me thru this week’s battle.
Water. Water. Water. If I’m to swim in this dark watery graveyard where Professions die and Job Descriptions Rest in Peace, then I need to keep hydrating. Seems like a simple bit of advice. As if I could go without drinking water. But most of the liquids I consume have been commodified, quantified, fortified and sold to my media-conditioned tastebuds. The water that I need. The water that my soul requires is the springwater that bubbles freely from the earth. It’s offered up elementally to complete the cycle. What falls from the heavens must rise to the occasion of each moment.
My cells cry out in thirst for this most basic desire like Bill’s bloodstream cries out for the next dose of alcohol. I can pollute my body with all of those seemingly “necessary” fluids that I “want”. Those “wants” only weigh me down, keep me pounding the pavement for the coin I need to scrounge for my next drink. Or, I can source the free drink offered body, mind, and soul that helps me float in this watery underworld where I swim towards the questing.
With these gifts - not given but revealed - as my own – as my birthright, my entitlement – just like all god’s creatures that grow, Ayuna sends me off. The trick is – to not let my mind trick me into thinking I’m poor when all about me is the freely given gifts I mostly am too busy to enjoy.
My teacher Brenda equips for me the daytime battle. Practiced in the art of Transformation, she tackles the dismantling of categories that no longer serve the Spirit. She often works with Clergy and the Covenanted ones who’ve given their lives to religious institutions. She shines light into the dark corners of habitual thinking that might feed the ever-voracious mind of the academic elite - but not the starving body of Christ that have wandered off in search of soul-food.
She is a camp counselor of the soul. Her workshops and retreats encourage hungry souls to come out and play where god’s spirit lives wild and free. To see and open our imaginations to what god is doing now - instead of thinking about “What went wrong?” is to enjoy a day lived outside the walls and “boxes” safely lived within. With these eyes we find we are also able to “see” when the sun goes down.
If the sun has set on this Christian era, then we are in the dark hours before the next dawn. Lighting candles can provide the comforts of an artificial glow but better yet is the waiting in the dark. Listening for what the dark has to say. Listening to the dreams of the saints who have lost the ego desires of their days and instead sing silent choruses of ancient truths.
In these silent vigils we are visited by emotions long suppressed in our busy days. In these silent vigils we encounter forgotten stories we’ve been too fearful to bring to light. Perhaps unseen and unspoken - but they’ve been pulling our strings of desire for so long we don’t see how we are Marionettes of desires, dis-ease, depressions, addictions and habits. Those invisible strings are resilient and not so easy to cut as one might think. In fact, thinking and talking about them only brings them to light. To rid oneself of them is an underworld quest.
These old old stories of shame, of broken hearts, and innocence lost - work on us from darkened rooms in the houses of security we construct. We wonder at how these unseen strings are stronger than the willpower we daily muster to “control” our needs. It seems I’m in control if I just keep working, keep going - faster and faster. I will just leep consuming and calculating and accumulating until…until…until…
To truly value the gift of sunlight. To truly value the gift of each day’s opportunity to live well and to live fully alive - we must venture into the dark and be awake to what it has to say.
I wish I knew what I was talking about. These are only whispers from the sages of the ages. I’m just starting off on this quest. My teachers have been there to meet me and send me further and further on. When I return from another cycle they smile and encourage me with questions. I fool myself into thinking I know next what to expect while all the while these teachers are showing me how expectations take the juiciness of the growing.
What even the wisest ones can tell you are only freeze-dried versions of the truths one must discover in the world without categories, without judgements, without the comforts of four walls, plumbing and electricity. Just add air, water, and sunlight and ingest.
It’s daylight on the porch now. If the steady stream of individuals across the street needing off-market remedies for the pains that “ail them” ever slows - I’m gonna go get those empties I left for Bill. I might need them to help pay for this networking busyness breakfast I’ve got lined up later this morning. Charity…however cheap…begins at home.
And Bill might need the hunt more than he needs those empties.