The Cassette Tape

When I was young, I had a cassette tape of harbor and ocean sounds:
25 years later and I remembered it tonight

Also, memories of my father,
From eyes I had not seen through in as many years;
And I miss him:
Charasmatic animal / child he was.

Warm and safe at 32,
Tonight,
I see him with a love I have never felt
And I know that I have subtracted the hate I bore when I wanted to kill him, at 13.

No, I do not hate my father;
My Father, who carried these genes –
And not just mine, but something rawer and closer to the bone:
Generations, poverty
Alchoholics; sad stories;
Humans, people, hoping things
And me at thirteen,
Wishing I could blast a shotgun through the wall –
My reasons were manifold.

And now, my temple, my cathedral,
My spiritual homeland and my bedrock,
Is a bedroom in an apartment, one room from where my father slept,
When he was not passed out,
On the couch,
Snoring like a goddamned bear –
The sound coming through the wall,
How it disturbed me…

And so I played the cassette tape
Of the harbor and the ocean and the fog-horn,
And I fell asleep to the sounds my father taught me to love.

And now, tonight, I remember this all,
And I see my life like a movie,
And I rewind the tape, play it back in my head,
And from that bedroom,
When I go back there,
Everything makes sense,
And I’m sad my father’s dead

But back then, it wasn’t just a tape in my head,
“My whole youth was sharper than cleats”
But now, I made it
And I see my own Moonlight,
Play in my head,
And I’m a good man,
And I’m not scared.

Only Yesterday

The sun will rise tomorrow,
As straight as the crow flies;

Daylight will come.

And it will be a good day for some,
And for others: one dark and tired

But I promise you this:

They’ve already decided –

For whether they know it or not:
Their day is upon them.

But –
Shall they meet us,
Perhaps then they will know what we do:

Which is that the human heart – if unafraid –
Shines right into the blind-spots of our souls,
That pulling darkness,
That invisible, secret shadow-side to each individual’s light

And should someone’s light throw shade on my shine
I am unafraid to use that yin,
And wear the black darkness about me like a cloak
So that I may once again slip in,
And explore the depths within this heart of mine –

Where I,
Brave and trusting,
Shall seek the light –
That yang-energy hiding behind the wound I have yet to find

And finding the sad thing
– As the seeker always does –
I will carefully remove the stitches,
Drenching the lonely sad plains in my soul with undiscovered parts of myself,
Where only yesterday,
I didn’t know I existed.

And when our wounds have been finally opened and examined,
We will be more whole –
Our wings once again dipped in gold,
We will have grown,
Not simply older,
But better, brighter, lovelier, and wiser –
Than we ever imagined,
Only yesterday

Watch Me

I do not know how I am going to die, but I know I will.

If thirty years of edging towards the horizon of infinity has taught me anything, it’s that figuring out life takes time.

Hell, some [people] never do.

I think of those who are older and quip that they “still feel twenty five” or whatever age seems to captivate their disposition and persona, and I just could never imagine saying such a thing; I feel no more twenty five than I do sixteen.

I’m simply not the same person.

I am thirty year old Lawrence Black, which is really a beautiful thing.

The other thing thirty years of living on earth has taught me is that compassion is a thing of beauty, perhaps the seed of everything else we need to know about life.

And I say this because I look back on the boy who loved like a dog and hurt like one too, and I have compassion for myself. I understand my pain now in ways I never did – in ways I simply never could have before.

But this entry is not meant to be another look back – it’s just that no wise man can look ahead without seeing himself in time, between what was and what will be.

And that’s really what I am writing for right now. What will be.

Because I’ve figured something out.

I’ve come to the conclusion that we all know exactly what we want.

Hmph you say, well, yes, I too spent plenty of time “lost” to a degree – particularly in my mid to late twenties – but I am not writing this to lament that, I am writing this to prevent it from happening again; I am writing this to once again design my life with the conviction that has allowed me to live my dreams in so many respects.

You see, I think that deep down we all know exactly what we want.

Only there’s a fly in the ointment: we are too afraid to admit our desires to ourselves.

They lay buried beneath a terrifying fear, one that I believe goes hand in hand with that elephant in the room called death. And it’s this fear that prevents us from feeling and expressing our latent, innate desires. And the fear is simply this idea that we may not get them.

I’m almost certain that all forms of acceptable human madness – mediocrity included – stem from this failure to confess our desires to ourselves.

This is an expressly adult problem; no five-year-old faces this existential quandary. Hell, there are a million child presidents and astronauts and veterinarians and mommies out there. And maybe ten of them will become who they wish to be and the rest will simply become adults.

It’s madness. We are more afraid of not getting what we want than we are of getting it. We grow up being told to be careful what we wish for – because we just might get it. Well, what about being careful to make sure we don’t fail to wish for things because we most certainly won’t get what we don’t wish for.

Well, what about being careful to make sure we don’t fail to wish for things because we most certainly won’t get what we don’t wish for.

Let me tell you: I have been there and done that. I have lived the life of unwished desires, and I have faced that soul crushing dreadful misery that only an adult can know. I’ve been dead to life and asleep to the world. I’ve soaked in the kind of acid misery that only eats away at the souls of those living relatively blessed lives in first world nations.

NO MAS.

I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. I want bigger and harder erections, I want more happy chemicals in my brain.

The aforementioned desires are jests.

What I really want is a myriad of completely attainable things. The kind of things like health and happiness and wealth and creative actualization – the kind of things that make my figurative dick hard.

And I’d be a fool to let anyone stop me from attaining them.

I can only imagine, as a cognitive exercise, how therapeutically effective a simulation or virtual reality program would be in which you experience your death, a kind of “It’s a Wonderful Life” thing. Why, people might actually start living instead of working and eating themselves miserably into their graves. Hating their lives deep down all the way, telling their once love to “go fuck themselves” and meaning it. We humans are fools – yet we lack in the foolishness that happiness requires – the kind of foolishness to say, “Why not me?”

I have been a damn fool – you don’t need to ask my exes who are happily living their lives without me to know – I’ll be the first to admit.

But I have compassion for myself.

I simply didn’t know any better.

Aside: Kristin Neff  (Love this woman!) at the University of Texas has done some really insightful research into compassion, and what her and her research team discovered, is that there is no relationship between compassion for self and others – as many assume. Put simply: some people have a lot of compassion for others and very little for themselves, while others – like my exes ; ) – have very little for others yet an abundance of compassion for themselves. Of course, like anything quantifiable, compassion exists on a spectrum, but I am glad to have moved more towards the middle after years of having very little compassion for myself, yet loads for others – like my exes. 

Anyway, as I was saying, I have been a fool. haha

But now, I’m learning, my mind is expanding (Thank you drugs.) jk

But no, I’m learning. And part of what I am doing is developing new beliefs. For what are a man’s beliefs but his theories, the assumptions and hypothesis by which he lives – or tries to live.

So, my new theory, ahem – belief -, my new belief is that I need to be foolish rather than a fool; for a foolish man is a happy man, happy because he is foolish enough to live the kind of life that happiness requires, which is a starkly individual life – as unique as he.

Did you think your fucking cookie cutter life was gonna cut it? ha

I did.

But like I said, NO MAS.

So, here’s what I’m gonna do.

I’m going to cognitively wrap my mind around some crazy ideas, concepts that most people don’t reject so much as fail to consider. These, my friend, are known as possibilities. Because the only certainty is death. Face your future as a kind of ant farm for worms. haha

Now make life great.

Make today great.

Take a vow. Honor yourself with the belief in your personal potential.

Look ahead on your remaining years and order up the kind of life that the universe has for you on the Chinese Take Out Menu of Possibility.

I don’t know about you, but I’m gonna fucking get mine.

And I’m going to give back to the world in a major way. Hell, you ungrateful sloth, I’m already giving back with these words. Read em bitch. Make your fucking life awesome.

You know what you want.

Simple: you know what your desires are.

Admit them to yourself. Admit Lawrence that you want someone who possesses the kind of soul that is capable of loving you and only you. Admit that you want a thousand million dollars. Admit that you want the homes and the boat and the jar midwest family, and the life of the world’s most popular living writer  – Paulo Coelho did it, WHY NOT YOU Black? Seriously, admit that you won’t lose sleep if you are so immensely happy and successful in the pursuit of your dreams that your exes cry themselves to sleep next to their miserable husbands. Admit your desires to yourself Lawrence. Admit that you want to teach English in some public college when you are forty five and that you hope half the female student body harbors a healthy crush on you. Admit that you have a penis and a pair of testicles. haha

I’m serious.

Watch me.

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee: On Suffering, Fear, And The Shadow

“We are afraid of our shadows. We are afraid of the darkness inside of us so, and so we project it outside and we have to go and fight these monsters that we project it onto outside. We are afraid of the dark; we are like children, and again, part of the mystical journey is to face that darkness. Also you need the sword of your own aspiration to go into the darkness inside yourself and to face that darkness, and then you discover that it isn’t that dark after all – the fears that you had – things change, and then you begin to discover the light that is hidden in the darkness. This is one of the great alchemical secrets, this is one of the great secrets of human transformation – that you go into the darkness, and it is terrifying at first, and then you discover this light of your own divine nature that is hidden in the darkness. It is called the pearl of great price that is at the bottom of the ocean, it is in the depths of darkness, there is something so beautiful, but most people are afraid of it, because there is a price to pay to confront your own fears, your own anxieties, and to go deep within yourself. It is much easier to project it and to have enemies outside, people you dislike. Then you can project your problems and it is somebody else’s fault. For the mystic it is always us.”

– Llewelyn Vaughan-Lee

We are afraid of the darkness inside of us so, and so we project it outside and we have to go and fight these monsters that we project it onto.

Background

I’m quite taken by the mind of Sufi mystic, lecturer, and author Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee.

Being that I am awakened on a spiritual path, I enjoy exploring numerous teachers from across nearly every era and doctrine. That being said, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee blows me away. And not just because he is a quote-unquote true mystic, but because he has a PhD in Jungian Psychology and is a truly bright intellectual. This lends an incredible depth to his knowledge of the human interior world and his keen sense of understanding on psychology, myth, and symbolism is evident within his lectures.

To hear a spiritual teacher reference Joseph Campbell and Rumi in the same span is nothing short of wholly refreshing. Eckhart, I have grown fond of you, and this isn’t goodbye, but Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee is like you on the limitless drug. Ironically, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee was recently hanging out with Exkhart’s good friend Oprah.

Introduction

The arrival of Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee in my life could not have come at a better time, as I am growing increasingly interested in the shadow after having recently had an experience where I faced certain aspects of my shadow for perhaps the first time. I understand innately that I am intrinsically afraid of the shadow, and I don’t like fear – I desperately wish to overcome it, and this has been a relatively consistent focus of mine this year, but I’ve lacked a deep enough understanding on the mechanics of fear to truly dispel the underlying fear that exists in my psyche. It’s one thing to have a transcendental experience of fear where fear is overcome, but it’s another to get to the root of it, where fear is effectively dissolved.

In listening to Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee speak on the human psyche in a spiritual context, I knew that I had happened on something that was the next piece in my journey to facing the inner dragons, which occupy a seat in all of our souls.

In a nearly hour-long interview, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee faces a myriad of what are often borderline sophomoric questions (i.e., “if you had one wish what would it be?”), but nonetheless manages to deliver answers with great grace and timeless wisdom. Integrating the topics of the psyche, the shadow, and fear into a cohesive narrative on spirituality, Llewelyn Vaughan-Lee provides a rare glimpse into the keys to unlocking the inner world.

On Suffering as a Process of Purification

And if you look at it [suffering] from a spiritual point of view, anyone who has begun the spiritual journey knows that suffering is a process of purification, where we clean out the debris that we have accumulated inside of us, the denseness, the darkness within the psyche, and that suffering – that purification, the Sufis call it polishing the mirror of the heart. 

Note: I recently dreampt I was pulling dead branches down from a tree [clearing debris], an experience I wrote of here.

Problems as Essential Paths to Growth

In this world of duality, nothing is perfect, nothing is pure, it is part of our dynamic of life; Carl Jung, the great psychologist, he said you should never take somebody’s problems away from them because it’s through their problems that they grow, it is through this friction of light and dark that we grow.

On The Divine Spark Within Us All

We have in us a divine spark, you can see it – it’s a light that shines in the human being. It’s our direct access to truth, our direct access to God, and the purpose of all the spiritual practices that exits are to awaken that spark, to give it life, to give it energy – so that it can transform you. 

On What Keeps Most People From Living Their Full Potential

Fear – it stops them stepping into the light of the of their own self. And there is this saying that ‘people are not so much afraid of the darkness as of the light’ – of their own power, of their own potential, because then you have to become a responsible adult, and most people prefer to be children and to blame somebody else, but it is never anybody else’s fault. Once you take full responsibility for your life – it is your destiny – it is your life. Nobody else can live it for you.


jungs


Bonus: Free Audios – Mystical Life and the Inner Worlds

From the description: These talks explore the inner worlds of the mystical journey, focusing on the symbolic, archetypal world and the interior dimension of the Self. The symbolic world is an intermediate dimension whose archetypal images have a powerfully determining influence on our outer life. The Self belongs to a world beyond time and space that exists within the heart of each of us. The mystical journey gives us a direct experience of these interior realities.

Download them here.

Shadow Work and Reading List

Jung defined the shadow as: “The Shadow describes the part of the psyche that an individual would rather not acknowledge. It contains the denied parts of the self. Since the self contains these aspects, they surface in one way or another. Bringing Shadow material into consciousness drains its dark power, and can even recover valuable resources from it. The greatest power, however, comes from having accepted your shadow parts and integrated them as components of your Self.”

Shadow Work is the work of the heart-warrior – C.G. Jung

I’m assuming if you read the quote in this entry on The Shadow you are likely interested in learning more about this hidden, yet vital aspect of your psyche. The following books are on my reading list for future study / self-work.

Remember, as Joseph Campbell said, the cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.

Read this next, The Heroes Journey: Sensing and Shaping Your Destiny Through Personal Mythology and Personal Myths