Monday, September 29, 2014

Continuous Re-creation of Our Course: the Way of Destiny

         For this week’s consultation about Good Stories, Leg’cy and the other two horses in their paddock were out of sight, over the hill. They were at the far end with Legacy grazing farthest away, and my heart warmed to see her walk right past the herd all the way to where I waited, freely allowing me to put on the halter. I even gave her one of the quarter-size healthy treats that I usually reserve for a reward at the end of our ride. I wonder if we as teachers appreciate our students when they “leave the herd” and take the risk of following our lead.
         After stretching out in the arena, we worked almost the entire time at the trot with many bends and changing directions. This felt good because not that long ago we were just trotting straight lines because turns took us off-balance. While I’d wanted to keep working on the canter as we had in recent rides, I decided to stay with the trot because it was going so nicely. Just about that moment when I was feeling good with “being” rather than doing more, Leg’cy seemed to want to shift to the canter. So I went along with it. Isn’t it interesting that her initiative showed up when I’d accepted the goodness of what she was already doing?
         She had probably picked up the wrong lead for the canter. After a few strides, we dropped back to trot, down to walk, and then picked up the canter again, more smoothly, but perhaps still in wrong lead. Because we best close on a good note, we returned to the trot, treasuring the light touch and the lift of power. In reviewing the ride, I felt satisfied overall with our increased balance, taking the curves; in a word, I attributed the improvements, including her initiative, to better collection.
         So what’s the take-away, if any, for Good Stories? Perhaps I should first say something about why I’m looking for a connection between my riding and my teaching. I’ve come to experience engagement with horses, particularly this one with whom I have a special relationship, as a magnificent response chamber. This capacity has been widely recognized in horse-human activity, for example in therapeutic riding and personal development clinics. We know that it’s easier to see a person’s hidden conditions (physical, cognitive, and emotional) through the display offered when the person is with a horse. A horse mirrors and magnifies, although the information often goes unnoted.
         So when I intentionally carry the development of Good Stories in my body, my heart, and my imagination, I do expect to receive insight and direction from quality time spent with Legacy. The display still requires dedicated decoding. To articulate the riding experience, I spend time reflecting and writing it out; talking about the experience also helps.
         Although I won’t elaborate in this post, I’ll acknowledge that my understanding of the riding-teaching connection is getting support from a variety of readings. Of particular value currently, Max van Manen’s hermeneutic phenomenology has helped with his explanations on the dynamic between experience and reflection, including the vital role of writing. Also, I just re-read Robert Johnson’s Ecstasy for his elaboration of Jung’s four functions, especially related to the source of vitality and enthusiasm. Effective teaching owes more to the teacher who appropriately carries passion into the classroom than anything else.
         How might this week’s ride transfer to our class? What would “collection” mean in Good Stories?  For our course, I re-create the curriculum continuously, looking for the best fit for where we are and what comes next. Riding helps me trust in moving by feel rather than by rigid adherence to the plan.
         In wondering about our next story and in listening to the experience of our ride, “One Without a Story” comes to mind: Is this story the best fit for developing our sense of our destinies? “One Without a Story” begins with the protagonist already enjoying mastery in the profession of basket making, but destiny careens ahead into a land full of scares and surprises.
         The basket offers one of those prime images for containment. It’s similar to collection in that it signifies an ability to hold. When we’re shaping our destinies in a quantum age, of crucial importance is the capacity to hold uncertainty and paradox until a resolution presents.
         It might seem strange for a story to begin at the end, for the main character to have already a finished career. We usually start off with the youth just setting out. “One Without a Story” shifts so that we wonder about feeling “finished.” You mean that’s not really the end? In our class, we’ve been focusing on the unfinished.  The Nonsense Tales spotlight the underdeveloped character, such as the one labeled Lazy.
         These two dimensions, the finished and the undeveloped, allow our narratives to open discussion of development needed to progress in our destiny. Persons and cultures can easily get stuck with a presumption of being done at times when the work of destiny needs a different perspective to move ahead. C.G. Jung gives a model of four functions with special attention on the dominant and the inferior, and wholeness requires developing all four aspects of the personality.

         So, thanks to Leg’cy, I sense a good next story and a rich space of exploration for our rides in and out of the classroom this week.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Turning Nonsense toward Not-Yet-Sense

         This week in Good Stories, we moved ahead into Nonsense Tales, a potentially tricky ground where powerful forces collide or hide, and, at times, war. Such stories offer material to dig into the impulses that dehumanize, that abuse, that label a person or event as meaningless, as trash. Terms, images, and stories can be used to justify domination or even killing. Strangely, nonsense tales provide material with resources to counteract such destruction. But because such stories can be troublesome, they’re often twisted into silliness and laughed away.
         I think about the point that drives a person to exclaim “Nonsense!” and associate to when in riding someone yells out, “Stupid Horse!”  Horses and sometimes humans absorb considerable abuse, and the untended damage goes underground. Looking into nonsense tales offers to crack open an advance in consciousness and to explore the emotional disturbance deep in the experience of living. We might rather turn aside and not consider our capacity to dehumanize; it’s hard to see our insensitivity to creatures. For example, the history as well as contemporary practice around horse/human relations can be seen as heartbreakingly cruel.
         I wonder about our class as we encounter nonsense tales. How do we handle the consequences of “not having the sense you’re born with” or of appearing to be “born lazy.” What can we do to go further than to laugh or grumble? How do we engage so that “nonsense” turns to “not-yet-sense,” and then progress on toward significant meaning or better yet to a shift in consciousness? 
         I recall a most significant moment in my college years when I got an F on the philosophy midterm. Having always made As and a few Bs, I couldn’t make sense of it; yet within a few years after getting a B in that course, I had prioritized the experience at the top of my college learning: it served to jostle me from fundamentalist literalism toward relativistic thinking. Nonsense moved to not-yet-sense and on to an advance in consciousness.
         On a lighter note, when considering experiences that involve turning nonsense to not-yet-sense I remember an important and difficult progression in my dressage lessons. About 17 years ago, I was riding Monday, the thoroughbred my coach nicknamed Truthteller because he revealed what my body was really saying. In my arrogant certainty that I was superior to the horse, I blamed the “stupid horse” for not following cues that I was giving.
         In one memorable lesson, I insisted I was properly cueing a smooth trot to canter transition, but Truthteller kept on responding roughly. Coach Debbie shouted, “No! Go back to the collected trot and ask again.” Next attempt was no better for ten or more circles. Finally, I was too exhausted to give much of a cue at all, and Monday smoothly picked up the canter. I was so stunned with disbelief that I almost fell out of the saddle. Debbie sounded thrilled, “That’s it! Now remember what you did.”
         My mind whirled: …but I hadn’t done anything except… And I heard the refrain she’d been saying over and over, “just think it.” Huh! I thought it and it happened. Wow! Is that all it takes!  Could it be that the thought makes a slight shift in the weight on my seat, maybe a slide forward on the outside seat bone that’s so delicate my body doesn’t perceive it but the horse does! I hadn’t believed the cue could be so subtle. I’d heard the words and perhaps thought I was thinking it but my body wasn’t convinced.
         I especially appreciate the immediate reflection and the way it allowed me to contact and move to memory a song playing in my soul, a vibration celebrating the subtle but very powerful connection across bodies. Inner resonance can be so ephemeral; it needs re-member-ing, respect, and yearning. That seems to be the way markers are given along the path of attraction, those signposts of destiny.

Lesson from Legacy: Yesterday’s ride seemed rather uneventful. Perhaps I over-expected based on the advance in quality in the previous ride. Although part of me knows not to expect to pick up just where we left off, another part wants to continue a progression and has trouble with the cyclical nature of growth. 
         So one gift from the ride reminds me that to be present includes dips and slow-downs. What feels like a regression can be an invitation to go deeper. Perhaps that’s happening.
         For example, my pre-dawn musings included reflection on an instant yesterday when we were in medium-quality rising trot. 
Like this:

My mind or imagination was just formulating a canter transition. Maybe I can try… and boom—Leg’cy picked it up. Her shifting gears shocked me because I was still rising in the trot. I hadn’t even initiated the seated position needed to cue the canter. I laughed and quickly readjusted to catch up with her. Then we worked together and managed a few nice transitions before ending on a good note. This last segment contrasted rather sharply with the opening period when she’d resisted my requests and hadn’t show much forward momentum at all.
         In reflecting on those moments, I’ve been exploring the nature of preparation, the flow between image and action. Possibly my initial requests to Leg’cy were physically correct but not clean enough imaginally. To live and ride at a higher level might demand more pristine images than stick figures. Being present needs more than comatose stick-figure words; it requires embodiment and integrity and will not settle for book-talk-ish imitations. High-level communication, at least with a strong horse, pushes for power in the imagination, prior to action, and dedicated reflection afterwards. In quantum language, the timespacematter/ing presents itself so that previous and next movements dance in image-action with vibrancy of form, enough to manifest in body more spacious than one being separated from another.

Max van Manen in Researching Lived Experience says:

“The aim of phenomenology is to transform lived experience into a textual expression of its essence—in such a way that the effect of the text is at once a reflexive re-living and a reflective appropriation of something meaningful: a notion by which a reader is powerfully animated in his or her own lived experience” (p. 36, emphasis mine).

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Storytelling Age: Information butand Quantum?

            Overall, I like the message of the four-minute video “Wisdom in the Age of Information” and resonate with Maria Popova’s lines like: “The great storyteller is the kindly captain who sails her ship with tremendous wisdom and boundless courage, who points its nose in the direction of horizons and worlds chosen with unflinching idealism and integrity.” Check out this Future of StoryTelling's video.
         But—you knew there was going to be a “but” didn’t you, or there wouldn’t be a blog. No one, no story, says it all. We need the dialog of voices; the dissonance of honest conversation speaks true in our quantum age of multiplicity. So perhaps I should say “and” instead of “but”; or better yet, we might make up a word like “butand.” 
         My reaction comes in my sense that situating wisdom atop a ladder with information as the base is missing something.  Like Resonance. Popova's video references direction as North-South-East-West. What about those authentic other ways known to native peoples like up, down, and inner. Those directions are not found in data.
         The Age of Information works on the scientific method with its assertions of supposedly generalizable conclusions, and the subsequent transfer of “facts,” that is, information. We need storytellers for the Quantum Age where travelers at the edge of consciousness might need facts butand also feel (and that includes suffer as well as thrill) the loss of significant meaning. For at least a hundred years, the search for destiny has been looking for guides who acknowledge the validity found in quantum discovery: uncertainty and indeterminacy.
         The compass for today’s age gets forged in developing inner sense, and even the old old stories tell it.  For example, I vibrate on the strings of the search told by Rumi (~1250) about the “Lost Camel” (Mathnawi, Book 2, beginning about line 2970, depending on the translation) where the time spent in imitation gets acknowledged and then surpassed. The search is not straight-line, not directed by information; but it’s made meanderingly, yet true to passion, inner vision, companionship as well as individual integrity.
          Destiny doesn’t drop on persons who sit (like grad students choosing the back row) and wait to be titillated by a bit of information, drugged by the thrill-a-minute entertainment culture, and motivated by the get-off-your-butt video/movie/blog… The Information-Ager might catch a cruise ship with 24-hour entertainment and might even make center-stage on it. Butand that age no longer commands my quest and it doesn’t reflect the base of the storytelling I care about.
         A ladder doesn’t seem to fit the quantum age. It’s too linear, too authoritarian, too presumptuous. I like Rilke’s poem of the ancient tower with circling spirals and uncertainty of whether I’m a hawk, a tempest, a story, butand a horserider. “Horserider” makes a special translation of the poem because it’s where my resonant field intersects. A good story makes a space that opens for the participant to enter, to make a telling translation. The telling gives a reading of the magnetic field that rights destiny.
         In the field of terms needed for storytelling that trues our lives, I value experience, resonance, and circling destiny. Good stories locate the space that often grumbles “Nonsense!” The quantum storymaker turns the edge of consciousness from nonsense toward “not-yet-sense” by playing resonance into the scent. This play builds a feel of fit, butand it’s not a steady state. It’s a balancing act, like centered riding with a magnificent horse.

Legacy says: Not-yet-sense is good focus for Good Stories. She imparted this affirmation in our time together this week by giving a movement that boggled my system. She offered a strange bump in the midst of our ride and it just didn’t compute. In other words, we entered the mist of nonsense. I was muddled with uncertainty: Had I just felt a half-hearted buck? Butand, might we have made an inarticulate shift toward a higher-level position?
         Given the context described above related to Good Stories, I interpret Legacy’s message as affirmation of not-yet-sense. That’s helpful because it’s difficult to engage positively with experience that doesn’t flow into meaning. Yet sometimes the space to create new meaning, especially advancing consciousness, simply needs holding until the wiring adjusts to different frequencies. The shout “Nonsense!” offers a convenient escape hatch from the discomfort of developing. That’s dangerous if we take nonsense as a turn-off or run-away signal rather than possibly as hold-on-here.
         Breathing into dissonance instead of bolting or shutting down takes courage, patient courage not the heroic kind. In our Good Story this week, the much-needed development of feminine leadership depended on suffering the still point. It extends our first Good Story, “Visit,” when the Old Woman made Ivan into a pin and stuck him on the wall, a still point needed to get the direction necessary to continue the quest for the Beloved. In this week’s “Golden Water,” the character had to stay in a hut just outside the holy place and endure the criticism of the masses for a long time. Our inner as well as outer critics may fuss loudly when we take the time needed to integrate developing sensitivity. Dragnet still sounds: “Just the facts, ma’am.” Significant advances in evolution have taken centuries, but a year’s internship may sound intolerable to us.
         The Information Age supported many advances; butand it also risked loss of certain kinds of knowing. The world of stories creates a category of “nonsense tales.” Some storytellers, especially ones in an information age, require a stated moral, and some versions make a nonsense tale into silly entertainment. Others, perhaps ones sensitive to a quantum age, hold a space for nonsense to transform into not-yet-sense with generative capacity to support voyagers at the quantum edge of consciousness.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Destiny. Is it crushing or joyful?

         In a way, that’s the same question blasted out by the Baba Yaga to the traveler in quest of the beloved: “Are you here because you wanna be or because ya haf’t’be?” While anyone awake vibrates in the question of destiny, the devil and other merchandisers specialize in sleeping spells, addictive sells, seductive lies, religious shells, workaholic half-truths, and bookoo distractions.
            College is supposed to be the quintessential questing-ground for destiny; not surprisingly, then, any authentic campus abounds in sideshows going A (academics, animal house, athletics) through S (sex, slum dwelling) to Zzzz (sleeping-in and feel free to fill in your favorite seduction). Amid this circus, Good Stories offers a destiny-detector as we learn to discern signal from noise by recognizing when a story strikes a resonant chord. We call this attending to the point of resonance.
         In our initial Good Story, we set sail on a Russian folktale with the youth on a fishing boat accompanied by a tutor. Often titled “The Maiden Tsar,” we call it “The Visit” because the story features a visitation from the beloved with an encounter that compels the journey. Of course, what is life but the journey? For destiny is more about direction than destination; it’s really about increasing integrity, becoming more true, more whole. (Thanks to Marion Woodman for elaborating on wholeness in relation to this story.)
         But those are too many words, the philosophical kind that risk putting us back to sleep, or that might provoke a drink, a binge, a lifetime off the real path of attraction. Decoding destiny depends on stories more than abstractions because the stories, the true ones, have the nectar of the gods.
         We just have to decant them. Decant: transfer from one container to another without disturbing the sediment. In other words, our bodies want/need the spirit from the bottle without dead words and without hangovers. From “The Visit” bottle, how do we engage the beloved and the firebird so our bodies are vitalized with the arousal of destiny? How do we, like the traveler, pass the want-to/have-to test and get rewarded with the ecstatic whirl on the firebird?
          Not so fast. Let’s remember it’s the journey, not the destination. In Good Stories, our initial tasting of the swich liquor might simply offer relief. Let’s take time to appreciate that we’re not going crazy. In today’s world, we’re often told one thing when our bodies are crying something quite different; and that’s crazy-making. While our heads are stuffed with dead notions from mis-taught books and hegemonic organizations, our inner sense knows we’re in a quantum age.
        This quantum swirl around uncertainty (Heisenberg), indeterminacy (Bohr), and about wave/particle and observer interaction might first appear disorienting; yet chances are our bodies can appreciate such concepts that acknowledge the turmoil our senses give us. The feel of uncertainty has an honesty and the quantum confirmation of it allows our meaning-making system to say, “Ahh. I’m not crazy. So how do I hold together contradiction, paradox, and constant change?” Quantum multiplicity sooths us when we know everything is changing, including our brain; it tells us that being perfectly clear is an illusion, if not a deception.
      We’re making sense of stories through multiplicity because they yield truth mainly when we work them on multiple tracks, when we connect archetypes with personal experience, when we bring together historical happenings with today and even engage the future. Quantum multiplicity is acknowledged in the coined term: timespacematter/ing.  Yes, it’s easy to feel crazed; but with hard work/play involving stories we can connect with inner knowing and we can trust the resonant compass that’s implanted in our beings from birth or before. That’s destiny.
       Baba Yaga demands us to respond to the question we’d rather avoid: “Wanderer, are you here because you want to be or because you have to be!” When we engage this question seriously and when we invoke the quantum gift of multiplicity, we are able to see it’s a trick question.  As we articulate the miasma, this dispels the oppressive fog that we feel much of time, especially when we look into the deeper waters around destiny: What am I here for anyway? Which way am I going? Is that all there is? And the perennial one, if “God is Love,” how can there be so much suffering in the world?
      In Good Stories we escape from being consumed by our wish for simple answers through serious play; and like the traveler, when the time is right, but not before, we have to blow our own horn, loudly and yet louder! So we get confirmed that we live in an age of multiplicity, necessitating “quantum” consciousness and navigable by quantum storytelling. Still, hearing their names doesn’t make it easy.
      So when we think destiny: Do we get the pin in the neck putting us to sleep? Do we wield the sword that frees us from oppression? Do we soar on the firebird? Do we finally get to embrace the Beloved! Well, it doesn’t have to be that old way of testing with only-one-right-answer or you go to hell. When the trick questions come, let’s learn to take a good breath, say “YES&NO” and connect with resonant inner knowing?

      Here’s what my horse sense tells us this week. Legacy’s message for us: If you’re going to dance with me, get in the flow. Because a horse has reaction time far faster than humans, we’ll need to live in the future. Slide on into that next step. In order to do this, we have to act in the perfection of the step we’re in. The one we just asked for is already happened/ing! And don’t forget the importance of follow-through. In that spirit of multiplicity, part of us also has to swirl out in the wake, streaming into the sunset. Horse power takes us into timespacematter/ing.