29 November 2011

Encountering the Self

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Arriving at Manna Cafe to play on Saturday night, with one sandal held together by string. It fell apart in the road on the way there, and at dinner at the Olive Tree I asked for something to hold it together; Megan from Invermere came up with a piece of string just the right length. Now today, down to one pair of flip-flops, I'm glad to be free of the rotten Teva's, the leather deteriorating by the day in the road slop. Last week I got the guy at the chai shop to do a street-side repair job, but now, a week later, I'm just glad to move on, lighter. My toes also are better off exposed to the air, following the previous night's outing to Manna (when our band was supposed to play, except the rain was too heavy and the other musicians were sick) and I came in from the outhouse with bare toes itching from what I thought was an ant bite, but was skin split from fungus, athlete's foot, incubated in days of humidity and rain. Saturday too on arriving they told me that Suryaneel was sick but I said I'd seen him earlier that day for rehearsal, and the rain had subsided, so I sat and waited and he did show up, a little bit late, with an eight-year-old Indian boy, Danesh, with him to play tambour. Our debut set gathered a small but appreciative crowd, gracious for our tunes mostly improvised together, complete with an impromptu African piece I led on the darabuka, and a sketchy group om-along.

Today my toes are healing well; the rain has let up enough to get clothes dried on the rooftop, and I'm over the mild but lingering sickness of the past week, for the first time. Another good kirtan set this morning at Upahar's, playing with Oleg again, also recovered from sickness, and Suryaneel, arriving late, and a djembe player who kept his head down and played too loud. Still Suryaneel's flute rose above it all, clearing a pure space of still meditation and full emptiness. This morning was rough, with mosquitoes buzzing the bed an hour before dawn, and even after I rigged up the mosquito net, finding ways in to prevent me from ever falling back asleep. At least the nights have been cooler of late, and I'm glad to sleep under the heavy sheet and Tibetan blanket, with all the windows closed. Still the cows start bellowing early and continue through the day whenever I start to nap, so I forget that and just brew another cup of coffee. The Internet worked fine today after the guy had to change all my settings which had been reconfigured too many times at other locations. I went to buy toilet paper, bottled water and samberli incense for mosquitoes, at Bubu's market; he was 100 rupies short on change and told me to come back for it another time. In the evening I walked with Osnat on the main road, with little traffic before the masses arrive for the holiday, and realized a new pleasure, an unhurried pace, lightness in my step.

15 November 2011

India is India

India is India. India doesn’t care what you think of her. India doesn’t care if you come or go, how many ages in past or future. India remains. India is home, and you know this even if it makes your stomach squirm on first arriving. And your stomach will squirm, even if you are careful what you put into your mouth. The dust, the dirt, the grime, the noise, the chaos of the streets will get you, even if you come believing you are above all that. The cows eating garbage in the streets, the crazy trucks with carnival paint and bling-bling blaring Bollywood dub pop mania with horns in orchestral disarray … even on the mountain, the sacred mountain Arunachala you hear their chorus tuning, bleating, blaring below, in the dusty town that stretches from one field to another without end, without beginning.

In Ramana’s cave, the stillness is profound. The chorus of horns in the town below the mountain fades away, also the drip in the close-by spring, and thoughts subside into emptiness. Appreciating the sweetness, I do consider the perfect air, temperature and humidity controlled for the body to have no need. Perfect merger with earth, air, body, the fire stilled, the water quiet, the town removed.Ramana had no desire for an ashram to be built in his name, for worshippers to come prostrating themselves on the marble floor, the garlanded throne, even for those few devotees to save him with food from starvation when he first arrived, content with bliss alone of being, no need.

You said you would not return, could not bear it, felt so relieved to arrive in Thailand even, the pungent streets of Bangkok, calling that home by contrast. You said you were done with the crazy cities, the impossible trains, the buses without shocks or brakes, the decrepit bicycles and oxcarts in the roadways lined with rubble, the same as Kathmandu, as Conakry, as Iquitos, only worse. Apocalypse not only now but forever, this misery you must face and accept, for this is your body, our body, our human earth, our waste and destruction, and kindness in coming back for more, among the beggars, beggars, beggars, this is after all where we all are headed, our once-sleek North American cities, our Eurozone of comfort and cleanliness, when the public funding runs dry into the pockets of the filthy rich, we come back to India, to Guinea, to Brazil and Peru, to El Salvador and Greece in the meek stones, Jaipur and Varanassi, Mumbai, Chennai, Malawi.

In the room awaiting Shivashakti, the diminutive woman in orange sari who appears daily at ten, for fifteen minutes of silence in front of a few dozen sitting in meditation, I sense an intelligence around me, awake and aware, reminding me of its presence here as elsewhere, in Peru for instance, in the ceremonial yurt; or Maui, in Daryl’s truck by Little Beach, when I glimpsed that entity again in grace of crystal clarity ... In that moment she appears, gliding into the room to take a seat in front of the crowd. Her gaze, quiet and slow, scans the room, face by face, eyes by eyes, making contact, acknowledging and confirming the presence of that awake, aware intelligence which is not personal to her, nor to me or anyone else in the room, but pervasive in existence itself. A smiling and all-embracing gaze that says, Yes, welcome, we are one.” Like Guillermo the curandero, like Famoudou the djembefola, she rises and glides again through the room, her small stature and absolute silence no impediment to the mastery of her powers, which is only to be a vehicle, a channel, an embodiment of the infinite.

The orchestra is tuning up, its mode both classic and pastoral, heavy metal and pop, psychedelic and spiritual all rolled into one, on the dusty street past the temple, the swept dirt in the ashram, where all the seekers come and go, mute and prostrate, before this or that saint, looking for someone to lead the way out of themselves and ignoring the message to look within, to rest and stop the search, right now. The cafes are full of us, or half-empty, depending on the season, and India doesn’t care. There is an enigmatic head nod that lets us come or go, or stay a while longer, offering a small coin of contribution to the passing of the age, and we compare our experience, our temporary lodgings, our stomach disorders, our revelations in the cave before the relics of the saint.
Home we go again to tell our stories and post our blogs, upload our pictures and pay visits to our specialists of intestinal disorders, entering the rat race once again, even if for the last time, while India remains. India is India, and in the dusty street the beggar still waits, the shopkeeper still does a middling trade, the heavy truck rumbles past blaring its Bollywood bop, and the auto-rickshaw careens around a cow eating cardboard. Somehow in the midst of this madness, watching India be India, in the midst of India being India, we catch a glimpse of a pearl of truth, how to be oneself.
In bed at the end of the day, with the morning spent in kirtan and the afternoon at the Internet café, I rest in semidarkness with vision clear and still. The pounding drums of the night before are gone, yielding to tinny radio from the farmhouse below. The darkness allows fleeting images, lights and colors, brief enough only to suggest that there is more to this stillness than meets the eye and ear.

At dawn the barnyard stirs to life, water running, cows lowing, a man coughing, and at first my reaction is resentment: we have to move, this isn’t working, what kind of home is this? In a little while the mountain gathers light, and the sounds subside. A feeling of peace and contentment returns, deeper than before. There is no need, really, to go anywhere. Home is home.

30 October 2011

Bali is Beautiful

Bali is beautiful, and to say so risks swamping the beauty with tourists from everywhere, drawn already in the hullabaloo from Eat, Pray, Love, filling the rice fields with houses, filling the streets with motorbikes, filling the restaurants with computers and sunglasses, filling the pockets of the serving class, drivers and masseuses, with pocket change for us, a bare living wage for them, because it's a good deal for us and a matter of survival for them.
Bali is beautiful, despite the rain and the humid heat, which saps motivation and drive and the other hormones of the alpha male Westerner; despite the clamor in the rice fields at night forbidding sleep, from frogs, ducks, geckos, birds, crickets, and in the day from construction sites, ceaseless hammering, electric saws, cement mixers, motorbikes, more ducks and frogs and birds; the wind bringing more rain, distant thunder, even, once, an earthquake.
Bali is beautful, regardless of my definitions or cynicism or ceaseless quest to find meaning or beauty here; heedless of my intention to relax or produce; smiling in the face of my glum preoccupation with heat or humidity here or the cold rains of home; oblivious to my plans to depart for sandy shores, distant continents; uncaring of my scratching of the bites from invisible insect predators, mosquito nets notwithstanding; Bali beautiful in its own rain and quiet grace and narrow paths and unhurried pace, its ceremonial flowers and incense and decorated thresholds, its clean tile floors and ornate sculpted roofs and facades, its clangorous gamelan and haunting flute.
Bali is beautiful - leave it at that.

See also: "The Last Tourist" (Bali, 2007)

video footage: Bali gamelan drum group in ceremony near Candidasa

25 January 2011

Truth vs. Conspiracy

from  C a t S c a n: the newsletter of Cougar WebWorks Alternative Culture Magazine online - http://www.alternativeculture.com/ - Celebrating Nature, Culture and Spirit

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"Today, conglomerates have bought up most [mainstream] news sources; and the number of major news sources has been reduced to six! These six control all the news reported in America and much of what gets reported in the UK and Europe."
-- Paul J. Balles: Weapons Of Mass Deception

"Don’t connect dots without evidence. Don’t turn away as soon as the words ‘conspiracy theory’ are uttered, especially if the evidence does point away from what the power-wielders want us to believe."
-- Richard Falk, Interrogating the Arizona Killings from a Safe Distance
18 January 2011 - IN THIS ISSUE: Alternative News

The mainstream news channels, whether it’s Fox or the Huffington Post, do not stray far beyond relatively narrow conceptions of appropriate political discourse.  Criticism of Israel is verboten; so is discussion of 9/11 as an inside job.  UFOs?  We get to watch “The Event” instead (see my review athttp://nowickgray.blogspot.com/2010/12/event-review.html ). A few trusted sources are given the quotes and the editorial guidelines to broadcast at large as the truth, and the rest is consigned to “conspiracy theory.”  Later history reveals such “false flag” events as Hitler’s Reichstag Fire, Pearl Harbor, the Gulf of Tonkin, and virtually every high-profile “terror attack” of recent years--except, of course, those officially sanctioned acts of terror such as the invasions of Iraq, Afqhanistan, Palestine, Lebanon, and that’s just the Middle East...  Facts of conspiracies such as Watergate and the Iran-Contra Affair occasionally hit the headlines, and then carry away, on the outflow of the brief wave of truth, one set of conspirators to make way for the next.  The Greeks and Shakespeare knew how tragedies functioned, among the rich and mighty.  So does the Mafia - from the city block protection racket to the big stage.  Which is why it’s interesting that David Wilcock in his latest article refers to the notorious U.S. assassination squad, Murder Incorporated...

If you are brave enough to connect the dots of information freely available in assorted story lines, you have the makings of a dangerous story, on many levels.  If it gets too high-profile you’re even considered a “threat to national security.”  If it’s talk at the barbershop maybe everyone agrees the government’s a pack of con-men. But if you run in suburban circles, academic establishment, bureacracy, retail mall world, commercial TV, chances are you buy the company line, at least in what you use to construct your world view, your notion of what goes on in the world.  Keeps it simple, to just get it from your “trusted source.”  And the best part is, then you don’t have to think about the outrages that have been committed in our name. 

But no worries anyway, mate, if you believe David Wilcock’s take on it.  White Hats to the rescue!

Still, it’s not like we can all just make David Wilcock, or Kerry Cassidy, or David Icke, or Gordon Duff, our one “alternative” trusted source and be done with it (though for some folks, that’s just the ticket). To some extent the alternative news media is so interlinked that it’s no more or less monolithic than the mainstream press. It’s like a new Cold War of the information age, pitting the Globalist Corporate State (read: New World Order) version of truth, against common sense skepticism mixed with tireless investigative research and courageous whistle-blowing. 

To construct a final unquestionable version of truth may be a tempting ideal, as well as a political tool, but as every child knows, one person’s version of the truth often diverges from another’s. The Buddha might add, it’s all subjective. In the meantime, I believe the best we can do is to start with quality and quantity of information content and sources. Then we can judge for outselves what is meaningful and real - not as an absolute article of faith - but according to what makes sense.  We can, in effect, construct our own story, our well-informed version of reality. (For a more personal version of the result, see my latest blog entry, “The Story of Story,” at http://nowickgray.blogspot.com/2010/12/story-of-story.html ).

Is there no hope, then, for such a thing as a new “consensus reality”?  I would say that whole concept is suspect, defined as it must be by the standard channels of information flow and processing (mass media, academia, government, corporations) which act as the manufacturers of such a fiction, because it perpetuates the status quo within controlled limits of acceptable discourse.

If there is to be no single voice or vision of this alternative “revolution” (just as there was not in the 60’s, until Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Kennedy each aspired to lead--oh wait...) that’s a good thing, especially as it avoids the standard assassination trap. It’s good also because the “single voice of truth” is itself a falsehood.  Perhaps there is some single true narrative to be exposed someday about Roswell, about JFK, about 911.  More likely not, in which case we are left to make sense of it thinking with our own free minds and the information that resonates with us; and by sharing openly with others concerned about events from the perspective of “full disclosure.”

To that end, I have assembled my own favorite links of illuminating research across the alternative media spectrum, and share them in a new condensed menu at http://alternativeculture.com/news.htm

The page offers quick links under the following categories - with my “pick of the week” included here as a sample of each:
Breaking News
Tunisia and US Geopolitics
from Cryptogon - http://cryptogon.com/
“As the imitation of American ways gradually pervades the world, it creates a more congenial setting for the exercise of the indirect and seemingly consensual American hegemony.” - Zbigniew Brzezinski
Geopolitics 101: Creating an "Arc of Crisis": The Destabilization of the Middle East and Central Asia - The Mumbai Attacks and the “Strategy of Tension” 
“The International Financial Institutions (IFIs) often create the conditions for political instability, while covert Western intelligence support to disaffected and radical groups creates the means for rebellion; which then becomes the excuse for foreign military intervention; which then secures an imperial military presence in the region, thus gaining control over the particular region’s resources and strategic position. This is the age-old conquest of empire: divide and conquer. 
“Indeed, where Al-Qaeda is present, the US military follows, and behind the military, the oil companies wait and push; and behind the oil companies, the banks cash in.” - Andrew G. Marshall, GlobalResearch.ca
US Fascism
CIA Insider Susan Lindauer - Extreme Prejudice: The Terrifying Story of the Patriot Act and the Cover Ups of 9/11 and Iraq
“Besides launching an illegal war and ongoing occupation of Iraq, the Bush/Cheney administration did everything in its power to cover up their illegal and treasonous tracks--which began with the 9/11 cover up itself. The alternative press has been aware of this for years but has lacked the confirming voice of a credible CIA insider such as Susan Lindauer.” - Alan Roland
Wikileaks' Assange arrest, CIA trap, Hillary Clinton, and UFO disclosure
... some rather juicy dots to connect: thanks to Michael E. Salla, PhD
The 911 Chronicles Part 1 - Truth Rising
Documentary follows young street activists working for truth and justice for families of victims and first responders, confronting the talking heads.
Another Angle: Contrails Show Effects of Atmospheric H-Bomb tests in 50s and 60s
Some you may have already made up your minds from earlier reports that chemtrails are being used secretly for weather modification (Google geoengineering, and don’t be surprised to find good old BP), military use, to combat global warming, or to dumb down the population with nasty chemicals and heavy metals.  Well, here’s a whole new angle...
Recent attacks on Arizona congresswoman Giffords and Judge Roll, and top cyber-war official John Wheeler, leave large questions unanswered - bigger, darker questions than the standard political mudslinging on the main stage. 
False Flags
History 102: 33 True Conspiracies
Required reading for anyone wanting to discuss conspiracies - from either side.  Only the facts, please...
David Wilcock covers a lot of territory, as he usually does, and now gives an update connection of dots supporting the ever-closer approach of ET-disclosure.
“The tragic mass shooting appears to have been a poorly planned 'rush' job to create a massive tragedy that would dominate the headlines for weeks by using a mind-controlled 'lone nut' assassin.
“...This appears to have been intended to distract the public from the massive, worldwide use of HAARP shields, which are causing birds and fish to die in mass numbers.
“The HAARP shields appear to be defending against a positive ET campaign to eliminate the threat of a lethal and utterly fake alien invasion -- by destroying a massive arsenal of classified military assets worldwide.
“All of this is prelude to an open Disclosure of the reality of extraterrestrial human life -- and a welcoming of Earth and its people into a truly Galactic family, which apparently has been planned to occur in December 2012.”
My most “trusted sources” for alternative news!
Conscious Media Network
Project Camelot
Red Ice Creations
Half Past Human
Veterans Today
Natural News
Global Research
And of course for an even more diverse palette of links across the spectrum of “Alternative Culture” see new entries on the home page at Alternative Culture Magazine, http://alternativeculture.com 

Cougar WebWorks Publications

Alternative Culture Magazine
Celebrating Nature, Culture and Spirit

HyperLife: A Life in Hypertext
and HyperLife Editing Services

Djembe and Dunun Rhythms
for West African Drumming and Dance

The Seeker's Manual
- wisdom on the fly -

Flutes Jam - http://flutesjam.com
scale charts for improvising on flute or pennywhistle

best wishes,

Nowick Gray

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