Narrow Passage

I. Hornet’s Nest Dysphoria

“The first thing to depart in mental illness is the familiar. And what takes its place is bad news because not only can you not understand it, you also cannot communicate it to other people. The madman experiences something, but what it is or where it comes from he does not know.” – Philip K. Dick, Valis

It feels dangerous to talk about it out loud. So I take to writing it down.

The illusions of grandeur started when I was 19 or 20 years old. It was a three or four year period living in this particular hellscape. The internal world I traversed at that time was one of psychic torture swinging into bouts of ecstatic overload. It was volatile. Apocalyptic. Paranoia wove its way through my mind ceaselessly. I forever thought friends were inviting me out as a joke. Even a funeral I went to, beforehand, I had thoughts of not going because I kept thinking it was a ploy to out me as a scourge unfit for family and friendship. I had enough presence of mind to talk myself down from these thoughts, but it was difficult.

I remember hearing voices telling me I was a prophet, the reincarnation of Buddha, the second coming of Christ. I had thoughts telling me I was sent here by God to unveil secrets to those around me. Prophecies. Everything was a sign pointing me closer and closer. To what though? I don’t know. Enlightenment? Transcendence? Fulfillment of divine purpose? It must have been a click in my brain. A jolt in my being. A freak show of ego and narcissism. Chemistry out of whack and firing haywire. There were any number of rationalizations for it, but the fact of the matter was clear. This is happening. I don’t have any small doubt it is a major reason for me being a writer. I wanted to hammer those thoughts into submission. I wanted to mold them into stories more sane and relatable. Transform the language and find new words. I wanted to channel those thoughts into something less cultish. Less religious.

I also did not in the least want to walk that path into schizophrenia. Mental hospitals. Dissociative disorders. Strapped in institutions. Drugged into zombification.

I was haunted by fear. Outlandish visions. I had nightmares of being gang raped and beaten pretty regularly. I wondered if I was tortured in another life for a practice of witchcraft. I recall smoking weed with friends, and feeling the need to stop, because it felt as though I was inside everyone’s heads, hearing all their thoughts. I had no idea what to make of my experience, this unreality, this alternative world, that worked its way into my thinking, but I dealt with it on my own.

There were nights I sat in my room unsure how I made it through another day. I felt like I had zero control, like I was being pushed through life by an external force co-opting my inner will. I gave thanks and praises to whatever it was keeping me safe and harboring me through the chaos. Many times I considered taking off into the quiet life of monkhood. A monastery. A mountain. Somewhere cloistered and sacred. Practice daily ritual and meditation. I don’t recall talking about this with anyone until years later. Even then, I’ve kept very quiet about it. It certainly showed up in some of my writing, albeit thinly masked and self-ridiculed. I’m 31 now. It’s been about a decade. I feel like it’s been long enough to revisit these thoughts in earnest, because they don’t leave. They’re still in my memories. Much quieter now. Almost an absurdist abstraction. A surrealist spat at a distance. I’ve dealt with it in ways that I knew how. It’s different of course in the present. Back then, I felt forever on the brink of losing complete and total touch with reality. Like my head was exploding with archetypal upheaval.

It’s ironic in a way too. Don’t the teachings of Christ make such suggestions? At least the Nag Hammadi Texts? The kingdom of heaven is within. Christ is in each one of us. We don’t need the middleman of the priest to know our connection to the universe or god. In all probability, we don’t want the priest to corrupt our natural encounter with feminine.

At the time, I was also reading about shamans, so this archetypal energy was presenting itself simultaneously. But the modern American culture makes as much space for shamans in society as it does for prophets. So that didn’t seem like a much better path to tread. Michel Foucault wrote about the village idiot. The person where madness found a dwelling. Mircea Eliade relegated the shaman to a madman suffering schizophrenic delusions.

Given what was arising in me and what roles are acceptable to fulfill in modern society, I suffered a lot of confusion. At the same time this was happening, I felt more and more a part of me that is a woman. I remember a dream I had in which my mom and aunts and the women ancestors sat around me in a ceremonial circle as I heaved and cried and screamed, “I don’t want this! Why me!” “It is part of your gift,” they said calmly. “You must accept it or it will eat you alive.” The idea of being transgender or non-binary was barely on the periphery of my understanding, but even then, I have often felt like and continue to feel like both a man and a woman. Not one or the other, but an interweaving of both. This is part of the reason why Willow has become a chosen pen name.

I ate mushrooms for the first time when all this was happening. To be honest, I believe it helped me ground, get real, filter and integrate these thoughts.

During one journey in particular, I traveled back thousands of years. I lived in the trees and wore a loincloth. I overlooked the forest village in which we lived. It was paradisiacal. As I returned to the present day, I experienced the fall from grace and entered a period of profound sadness. How could civilization develop in such a way? So much violence toward one another and toward the earth. Violence that is both explicit and unconscious. But that trip, deep into the terrain of psyche, helped me understand the nature of those reoccurring grandiose illusions. We are complex beings. We are more than just our present life. We have memories encoded in our DNA. Our genes carry the weight of millennia. I don’t need to give my whole identity over to one particular upheaval of thought patterning.

There was another voice that said over and over again, “You are gay. You are gay. You are gay.” It was frustrating. It was clear that women turned me on. My sexual fantasies indicated as such. Men, not so much, but I was and continue to be open. Experimental. So sure, I’m gay. I feel an emotional, romantic connection with men. Not all men. A heartfelt brotherhood. But as teenagers, our touching one another was always aggressive and competitive, expressed through sports and wrestling around. There was less hugging. Little to no softer intimacy. This is something I craved much more than sexual attraction. There was this phrase “butt buddies.” It indicated that two friends were attached at the hip and vaguely implied that they were fucking one another. It was used as a derogative. A point of joking and making fun of people. Closeness with men was clearly discouraged.

I grew up in a place that was progressive and open, but still people were steeped in tradition. Homophobia existed in subtle ways. It wasn’t so much a hatred for the LGBTQ community, but more so a fear of it. “You’re gay” was a way to say, “you’re dumb.” When it came to sexuality, it seemed as though you could be either straight or gay but no in between. There were no degrees along the spectrum. Only a strong binary. Gay or straight. Man or woman. In the closet or out. Strict, defined boundaries. As someone who identifies as queer, this didn’t appear on my radar when I was younger. It was almost too complex. My whole experience was too complex for me to get a grip on.

Most of my younger days were spent in a hazy darkness. The space needed to find clearness of thinking and expression of an inner world didn’t really exist. I remember being relatively miserable. I had a few friends I could relate to on these matters, but I don’t think we had the language or concepts to describe what was happening to us. We most definitely searched though.

I understand consciousness forever ebbs and flows, changing like a chameleon depending on the context of society and individual state of mind, but still, it’s important to name the delusion.

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Interludes of a Winter Blues

I carry a lot of tension in my gut. My whole life this has been the case. So much so, the majority of times I’ve visited an urgent care, a hospital, or doctor, it has been related to the gut. Thankfully these visits have been far and few between, and none have been terribly life altering.

I sit and meditate. I like to listen to that part of my body. I enjoy hearing and feeling my intestines talk. They make wild noises, like wolves snarling, frothing at the mouth with digestive salivas.

There’s a lot going on in there.

If the heart is the ocean (the veins rivers, creeks, and waterways) and the brain is the cosmos packed in with galaxies and neurons, then the gut is the deep caverns running pathways through the earth filled with nutrients and shit. The gut is like the soil, interlaced with mycelium and nerve endings.

I carry a discomforting hurt: The pain the earth goes through. There are tsunamis in my heart. There are earthquakes in my gut.

I sit and navel gaze. I release the spots where hardness builds up. My guts are soft, strong, and wild. I make sure I ingest non-domesticated foods as often as feasible so digestion is not made lazy by sugars and highly processed foodstuffs.

The complex absorption and expelling of earthly being daily.

Is there meaning in the fact that Artemisias such as wormwood and mugwort both tonify the digestive tract & strengthen dream recall? There is certainly a lot being worked out in the gut we are not totally aware of. Likewise in dreams, we are digesting emotions & experiences via the internal actions of the subconscious.

I carry a lot of shame and guilt in my gut. It tenses up like rocks and impedes the creative rivers of will.

Release.
Real ease.

I dreamt of a city. Walking through, the atmosphere was relaxed yet festive. Carnivalesque. I walked through a park and found so many colorful feathers. Several feathers sized four feet long. “These must be my new wings scattered all about.”

I made love with a woman I just met. Boundaries dissolving like fish wrestling in the ocean. Amorphous like the vortex storms of Jupiter. Volatile and pleasingly beautiful. Folding in on one another like spirals of the starry night. We made love.

I woke up naked and attended a street action. It hardens my body. To feel the lick of fire and rage, a constant in the underbelly, trembling like fault lines.

Some days I’m free from worry. Some days my brow is furrowed.

Praise be the shit. For that is an example of the body speaking, “This, I do not need.” I’m thankful for my guts. Discerning nutrients and nourishment everyday.

The Art of Floating

Like stars in a dark sky, dreams are a faint sparkle in the depths of the night.

She woke up early. The light filtered in zebra-like through the blinds ever so lightly trying to nudge her into the day, but the darkness still dark enough to fool her into another 5 minutes of rest. She stretched out a leg, toes pointing, a foot arched to the ceiling. Then an arm, fingers reached into oblivion. She felt as though a dream casting a shadow into reality.

She went through her day in a similar hazy way, memories surfacing to her mind like pockets of air, bubbling up from the ocean floor. She was unsure if the images came from her waking life or some place in her subconscious. Was it her imagination making it all up? She tried to differentiate dreams from reality, but at times, it was too much trouble. So she sat in reflection, letting the thoughts arise and subside, creating a loose semblance of histories.

In her early days she experimented with mind-altering substances. She ate acid in the woods, smoked dmt in the mountains, popped back peyote buttons in the desert. She explored consciousness heavily and without reserve. But when it came down to it, she found a friend in magic mushrooms and ganja. There was something about their interaction that worked well with her chemistry and essence.

She began meditating with the fungi and grass, and practicing yoga by her lonesome, always by her lonesome. For the longest time, she was scared of community. She didn’t want to reveal herself. She wasn’t ready. She felt like an injured bird, and being with people hurt too much. She was afraid of hurting others as well. But her time alone had its advantages. Through her self-reflection, she discovered, locked away like a snake coiled at the base of the spine, an innate power waiting to be cultivated and put to use.

She had heard of the snake called kundalini before, but was unsure how to maneuver, or handle, such a life force. Through continuous practice and inquiry, she slowly gained a wield over the wilderness within, the hidden, dense, and compacted layers, once accessed and opened, they burst forth like so many deathless feathers.

She felt often like she was floating. This was a new feeling for her, so she was wary at first. But day in and day out, the feeling of weightlessness stuck with her. Upon waking, she breathed it in and maintained the buoyancy throughout the day. She felt reconnected to the source, experiencing her inner world as a womb of nourishment and safety.

There was a single moment that pushed her from the embankments of study & solitude, a moment of such overwhelming joy and intensity, it made her sad there was no one around to share it. It was a simple thing. She saw a flower. She became the flower. She identified with the petals. She knew the blossoming and the falling and the crumpling and the drying out on the ground. For her, it was tears. Tears of sadness. Tears of joy. So she left the labyrinths of her inner being and began relearning to live amongst people.

It took time to adjust to the alien, and sometimes harsh, world of others. She tailored her behavior and speech to be, if not a little unusual and out of the ordinary, at the very least pleasant to the ear and easy on the heart. She wanted to share her insights and teachings not only from her psychotropic experiences, but from her dreams as well. She understood such lessons had to be masked and softened. If she spoke without metaphor, people would write her off as a madwoman. She knew she had to present her intricacy of thinking, not literally, but like a tide slowly rising along the shoreline: with so much natural ease, that before one knows it, their feet are wet with foam and waves are lapping at the knees.

She decided it was worthwhile to sit with the ocean to learn further her secrets. She listened to the crashing rhythm unrelenting and strong. She watched as the moon drifted across the horizon and reflected softly in the dark waters. She picked up a stick and started etching symbols in the sand, and like a drop of rain falling on her forehead, a vision presented itself.

From that point forward, she went about her days with a brush as a wand, painting trees in the clouds floating on seas devouring the sun. She conjured landscapes from those worlds she saw when she mirrored her third eye outward. The texture of her paintings evoked deep-rooted feelings and her choice of colors altered people’s moods. She believed wholeheartedly in the fruits of the shadow, of diving into the unknown and retrieving those sparkling treasures from the grips of fear; and the only way she saw fit to describe them was through images and wordless symbols. She tread in that space so often, it felt like home.

This is how she learned to heal herself. She lost herself so thoroughly in her work, she painted herself in dreams.

Psychedelify the atmosphere

Among the very tangible goals of releasing a book, printing up photos for craft fairs and art exhibits, continuing restoration on the park house where I live, and remaining dedicated to my yoga practice…

I’m very much interested in inspiring others to shed skins, break boundaries, and soul express.

semantics and definitions:

shed skins – to release built up, stuck emotions; transform memories from heavy burdens (baggage) into gems of lessons

break boundaries – try new things, consciously walk new paths

and ultimately this leads to soul expression:

how would you art yourself? through clothing? decorations? singing? dancing? painting? writing? ::: anything that simultaneously satisfies and reveals a deeper layer of your being

perhaps your

anima – inner woman
-or-
animus – inner man

are yearning to see the light of day

The word anima and even animus remind me of animal, but not just any animal, the divine animal, the primal nature, the thump and beat awakened within, the throb of passion, livelihood, and creation

I’ve been exploring my anima for quite some time. I’ve come to know her as a fierce warrior, related very much to the Indian goddess Kali. The anima within me is a jaguar priestess and huntress like Artemis. She is a sacred whore who works magic and healing utilizing and channeling sexual energy. She is a loner like a stray wolf.

I call her Jade Hart.

The animus within me is like a shaman, a trickster, a playful voodoo hoodoo magic man quite unlike any archetype I’ve hitherto known. He is a myth of his own.

I call him Jade Hart.

semantics and definitions:

jade – a precious stone, an imperial gem, royalty; a female name

hart – a male deer who matures after 5 years time, his antlers are his crown; a play on the word heart

In 2009 I put out my first book. Essentially, I’ve been spinning this art and poetry philosophy going on 5 years…

My 28th birthday is coming up this year as well, a very auspicious year in astrology, something I learned about and started gearing up for back when I was twenty-three, a rich and textured 5 years ago…

Suffice it to say,
I am very excited.

I hope to share as much as I can with y’all.