25 November 2010

Like in the Movies

The frequency of my correspondence with Steve, the old boyfriend from college who contacted me a few months ago after 35 years, has diminished. Now we mostly exchange amusing forwarded video clips and jokes (sidebar question: why are forwarded email jokes always written in oversized font?) from time to time,

and even that has dwindled since I complained the joke he shared about John Hinckley, Jodie Foster and Barack Obama was offensive.

But before we reached this point, while my profile was still active, I took one of those personality analysis tests so popular on FaceBook. Something like "Which movie actress are you?" By that tests measure, I am most like Audrey Hepburn. The results posted to my profile and Steve revealed that he'd always thought of me that way.

My sense of her isn't strongly defined from the handful of her films I've seen. Thin, almost emaciated. Delicate on the surface with a surprising inner strength of character, will and intelligence. Elegant physical presence. Soft spoken. Well bred but not arrogant.

I suppose I see the resemblance.

How did humans see each other before movies were invented? How do lovers in remote villages of the world see each other? Are their perceptions any clearer than ours, unfed by massive media input?

I perceived Steve through a Cat Stevens filter or frame 35 years ago. The resemblance was predominantly physical with the additional similarity of music, specifically guitar playing. The gentleness of Cat Stevens' music corresponded with the quality of my affection for Steve; my love was a secluded mountain meadow where a delicate breeze caressed tall grass in bright, watery sunlight. Quiet. Shimmering. Timeless.

These days my understanding of Love is less influenced by movies and popular song. For one thing, I consume less media now than I did 35 years ago. For another, life experience has revealed the massive discrepancy between the way things go in "real life" and on the giant screen.

I rarely yearn for Love, Like in the Movies but I often wish my real life conversations and interpersonal interactions were more like those in the movies. In the movies, conversations involve long pauses and lots of eye contact. Meaning is communicated through dynamic, changeable volume and pace and timbre of speech. Emotions are expressed.

16 November 2010

Work A Day

OK. So, in part, reacting to the encounter with the Landmark Seminar leader discussed a couple of posts ago, my heart and mind hardened. It was not a painful development; I was not depressed or immobilized but my willingness to work diminished.

The internal chatter went something like this:

Ah ha! So the Leader is imperfect. Well, then. Landmark Education must also be imperfect. Therefore, I'm not going to listen any more. I'm going to sneer. I'll keep a correct face on but I'm sneering inside. I'm committed to sneering.

Among the several things I "got" during last night's Seminar was that while I was sneering, I was not getting any work done. When I considered why that was true, I discerned some other concurrent background chatter:

I just can't work unless I'm inspired. I can't force inspiration. Besides I can't work in this house: when she's home. I don't want her to hear me. I don't want her to come tell me she "really liked" whatever she heard. I'm not doing it for you! blah blah blah I need to smoke while I work...blah blah blah These songs aren't that important anyway; I've got other cool stuff happening in my life right now...

"Well," (I said to myself last night), "OK. Whatever. And I'd still really like to have those new songs I committed to create in my Seminar project. So I'm gonna go ahead and work on those songs while you/I sneer. OK? I'm not debating this is not the dreamed-for setting; I'm just saying I'm gonna go ahead and work in it 'cause it's the one I have right now."

And don't you know? Music came. Inspiration came. And remains solidly in this next day -- as, of course, it always does because, for me, once I begin the work, it's easier to work. I'm not facing a blank page. I have something begun before me and so I know where to put my hands.

Just before I picked up the guitar, I responded to an email from dear friend F.

I hoped to call you today but didn't commit to it
so, as the day unfolded and delivered a series of events that I called "strange" to my door step, I was distracted from the hoped-for agenda.

You are interested in "this god who visits and presences" me.

In a recent conversation with [a mutual friend], I said, "F______ is always ever the Poet." It was a comment on how I perceive your relationship to (and "use" of...dance with?) language....

It's also a comment on who I become with you.

I probably have it in me to write to you about "this god" tonight but I'm going to redirect/redistribute that vitality into music. It is late and I made a commitment tonight, to myself and a colleague in the Landmark Effectiveness Seminar, that I would show up every day, beginning tonight, to receive the three new mystical poem-songs that are part of the possibility I created and intention I set in the work of the Seminar.

So I'm going to light some candles
and pick up my guitar
and welcome Rumi
and consider the text

Keep Your Heart Awake

There are many whose eyes are awake
And whose hearts are asleep;
Yet, what can be seen
By mere creatures of water and clay?
But he who keeps his heart awake
Will know and live this mystery;
While the eyes of his head may sleep
His heart will open hundreds of eyes.
If your heart isn't yet illumined
Be awake always, be a seeker of the heart,
Be at war continually with your carnal soul.
But if your heart is already awakened,
Sleep peacefully, sleep in the arms of Love,
For your spiritual eye is not absent
From the seven heavens and seven directions.


We will talk soon.

I'll speak your name as I light the candles tonight.


13 November 2010

It Was Always Me

Sitting in the sun with my first cigarette a few moments ago, something happened. I was analyzing some situation in my life -- I don't even remember what it was now -- and became aware of myself as distinct from the situation.

This has happened before, a result of consciously reminding myself that something exists, a part of me, that does the thinking. But this time, the awareness arrived unbidden. A surprise. It was as though Thinker yawned and stretched and winked at me...and the eye was deeply familiar. The eye was my own. And the eye was full of snapshots and clips from all the places and people I've known. I was saturated with realized awareness that I was the common denominator in all those scenes; that I was there then and am still here now.

It felt like falling into something. Alice falling down the rabbit hole. Ka-thunk! I am.

11 November 2010

Judging the Book (and other assessments) By Its Cover

The rumbling in my stomach, fitful sleep and tear-stained-pillows-of-morning started almost from the moment I stepped into the role of Group Leader. There was no job description provided; no "Group Leader's Handbook" distributed; no contract outlining responsibilities and liabilities.

Not that I'm unfamiliar with being "the one": I'm an oldest child of four. I facilitate workshops and have consented several times in the past to be "song leader" at small group gatherings. I've entertained audiences of hundreds. But this experience, becoming Group Leader of a small group in Landmark Education's Effectiveness Seminar, was a first: consenting to lead a group with no advance knowledge of the purpose or objective of the group, for no pay. There's no need to ask "What could go wrong?" If I'd been permitted a glimpse into the future on the night I became leader and allowed to read that descriptive last sentence, I might never have accepted the role.

Then again...I might have (and did, in fact). Adventure, mystery, puzzles, surprises. I have an appetite for such things and often choose to move toward the Unknown and The Thing I Fear.

I'm no longer Group Leader. I resigned two days ago. The Seminar Leader suggests I did not resign; he suggests "quit" and "breaking [my] commitment/word" are the correct or accurate words for what I've done. Those words are OK; it's not confusing that an observer would use those words to describe my decision.

The rub is this: "resign" also occurs to me as a correct and accurate description. It is the Seminar Leader's inability to see it similarly that confuses me.

It's been said that Landmark Education is the land of "ass-kicking" and "two by fours." Never let it be said that I can't appreciate the value of ass-kicking and wielding a two by four; sometimes, those are the perfect antidotes to the clever, evasive maneuvers of human ego.


I believe there are other strategies more appropriate and effective in some situations. Landmark Education is a powerful technology, exposure to which has provoked amazing changes in my life already. Without knowing any particulars or details of my life story, Landmark technology has advanced my life cause.

Where I stand now, I crave some of the rigor inherent to the Landmark technology applied to the specific contour and content of my life. I am frustrated beneath the broad brush of "the Landmark Way." It's like wanting to dance but the band only knows how to play one song.

I confront my old yearning for recognition. The universality of the "human condition" permits generic approaches -- food, water, shelter, love, listening, laughter, etc. -- that deliver some benefit to most people in most situations. And what about the unique nature of the suffering or confusion or despair that a particular human experiences?

Somehow I had read Landmark to include an appreciation of this dimension. This week, it feels like a misreading. When the Seminar Leader suggested that I live in an "angry at the World" attitude (and that this attitude is a big source of suffering for me), it did not ring true. I suggested that he didn't know me well enough to offer that diagnosis (though I would not have had a problem accepting it as a ventured guess). My suggestion, as best I can understand from his subsequent coaching, fell in the category of "defensiveness."

So I have no authority with regard to defining how I see the world? To report how things look to me, if my report differs from how you think things look to me, is an attempt to sidestep the truth? Again, this is not a context that works or rings true for me. Ultimately, wouldn't that lead to a total evaporation of my "power"? But, the stated intention of the Education is to increase my "power, freedom and full self-expression"... I'm confused and, so far, have not found a corner of Landmark Education where this apparent discrepancy is addressed.

I am feeling neither heard nor seen inside the house of Landmark Education these days. I am still enamored of and awed by the possibilities for my life that have opened up as a result of my enrollment; I'll probably use some of these tools for he rest of my life.


I am coming to see that there are discrepancies between the Landmark Itinerary and my own and the Landmark Train can't take me everywhere I want to go. Trains don't run on water or traverse the sky. I can't see the wonders of the ocean's floor from a train or find the field where the ancestors gather to chant. I am, after all, Sojourner.