Saturday, July 28, 2007

Life in Venice Beach

Across the street there are 6 cop cars parked back to back, blocking an alley. One cop went running back to his car for a moment, wearing a face mask indicative of a siege.

Venice retains its rough edge amidst the endless affluence of West Los Angeles. Once known as "the slum by the sea," Venice saw gang warfare for decades. The Shoreline Crips and the Venice Trece were the ruling parties. No one without a death wish ventured onto the boardwalk at night.

The eighties saw the Hollywood area reach capacity. With the film industry growing, people continued to move to LA in search of work. Santa Monica was the first beach town to be revitalized. Venice followed, as fresh money renovated the former slums. Crack houses were renovated into million dollar homes. Drab streets were filled with freshly landscaped palms and birds of paradise.

I live in the last frontier of Venice. Drug dealers spend the afternoons on a corner four blocks away. Police helicopters periodically circle the area in pursuit of some drug dealer or gangster. Gangs still periodically war for control of certain blocks. I have woken up to find blacked out drunk homeless people sleeping on my doorstep. A colony of seeming drug addicts living in dilapidated trailers has parked itself on the opposite corner. They frequent the Big Lots and 99 Cent Store along with the working class Mexican and black families.

It is rumored that Whole Foods is buying the aforementioned shopping center. And perhaps the arrival of the ever expanding bourgoise temple will transform the last remanants of "the slum by the sea" into the territory of the hip entertainment crowd.

Perhaps I am getting older and losing my love of grit, but the beautifciation of the area does not seem like a bad thing.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Office Life

My office supplies two things in the kitchen. Coffee, and painkillers. 4 big boxes of 4 different brands of pain killers. There is no fruit, no snacks, nothing to nourish one's day. Stimulants to keep one moving against the natural tendency to run from feeding data into a machine all day. Pain killers to numb the aches from staring into a throbbing neon radiation machine all day long.

There is an obvious disconnect in many employees here. People walk down the halls with their heads down, providing no acknowledgemnt of the passing person. I have been here since January. Is it possible that people pass each other every day for years, never acknowledging their unknown colleauge with even a small smile?

I am happy that my life goals will not include this anonymous office life of neverending purgatorial projects.

Monday, July 16, 2007

"This stillness to which all returns, this is reality, and soul and sanity have no -more meaning here than a gust of snow; such transcience and insignifance are exalting, terrifying, all at once, like the sudden discovery, in meditation, of one's own transparence. Snow mountains, more than sea or sky, serve as a mirror to one's own true being, utterly still, utterly clear, a void, an Emptiness with out life or sound that carries in Itself all life, all sound. Yet as long as I remain an "I" who is conscious of the void and stands apart from it, there will remain a snow mist on the mirror." - Peter Matthiesson, from "The Snow Leopard."

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Where I Am Now, How I Got Here, And How I Can Move Forward

The past weeks have seen me negotiating this reality in haze. I was walking tall and proud, doing Sat Kriya for 62 minutes, manifesting beauty. And then I slowly crashed, tumbling into a nether realm of muddled thoughts, angry moods.

I guess this is what St. John of the Cross refers to as “the dark night of the soul.” For much of my meditation career, mystical apparitions have danced across my eyelids. And now much of that has stopped, and I am faced with the task of being an overwhelmed security guard in charge of protecting the void. Subconscious thoughts overwhelm my capacity to keep them out, and I am stuck.

But this is a stage that many encounter on the quest, the dark night of the soul. The confetti stops flying, and the practices that once presented us with joy become another drudgery task.

So I ask my teacher what to do. The answer is to stop operating on an emotional basis. Feelings come and go, and in reality we have little control over them. Continue to walk the path even when everything around has gone pitch black. Sometimes I made my most miles on the Appalachian Trail while it was rainy. When there were no views to stop and marvel at, I could push through.

It is at this point where experience comes to a dead end that faith comes into play. The teachings say that the dark night of the soul is a transitory faze a final march through the swamp before the light is reached.

Having already begun this journey, I am faced with two choices. Continue on in faith and grace, or sink into sludge. The answer seems self-evident.