The Experience, Part 5 – Heartbreak

blankI am pretty sure that I was not really the best at dating.  In fact, one could say that I was extremely uninterested in it.  I was an introvert, a thinker.  I took my craft pretty seriously.  As such, I was certainly the last to consider that with another person my thoughts should reside.

Yet, as the passage of time consumed more of my life, the need for companionship grew stronger and stronger.  At first, it was building friendships with associates in the media industry.  Naturally within those environments my relationships were within circles of models, dancers and musicians and then finally with a single person.  I don’t want to give names.  I think names should remain anonymous unless they have made themselves otherwise.  Memories that do not carry into actual parts of your life, like children, should remain personal reflections and the tales you tell those who have actually become part of your living moment in whatever now you are in.

The transition from “the single life” to the front line of “in your face interface” with another human being was indeed both intensely satisfying and deeply horrifying.  I was on a constant juggernaut of elation followed by abject fear of loss/discovery.  To be discovered as something that was not as beautiful as love’s balm cosmetically hid was always lurking, always lurking.  I was terrified and it drove my art and my intense dive into my business at the time.  I used work as a decanter to waterboard the part of me that was terrified into a submissive whimpering art slave/business man.  It was an aphrodisiac as well and served its purpose in igniting what was my first true love.

She was tall, skin like creme, hair like fine platinum and she held a classic beauty like the statues of antiquity.  Her face was beautiful because it was enourmously interesting, fascinating even.  She was a photographer.  We were introduced by mutual friends who thought we might be good for each other.  They were half right, but never wrong.  It was the half missing that spelled our doom and has always been what has stripped me of any love I have ever had.  Forgive me, I digress…

She was my muse, the one who propelled my thinking to new levels and I was addicted from the second she entered my life.  Dripping with anticipation from the moment I last saw her until she would grace me with her presence once again.  We lived the classic student lifestyle and were as close to close as close but not too close could get you.  But that was the half missing.  I was madly, deeply, head over heels in love with her and she was with me until she wasn’t.  I know she cared, deeply.  I know she truly felt with me and toward me.  She was always genuine and truthful.  But there was always the part of me that was striving for something way beyond what she really loved about life that made it awkard and eventually the stuff of heartbreak.

Up until the time I was immersed in the swoon of being with my statuesque muse, my supernatural experiences were subjective.  There was expression in painting and music and in the media I drove into the world through my company, but ultimately it was all in my head.  That all changed one night as I was doing some breathing exercises.

I had heard about prana from reading some books on Yogic transcendence and that there was a substance in the air that was a type of energy that one could harvest or ingest through a specific type of breathing.  This type of breathing was like a self induced form of suffocation that required extreme self control over all aspects of one’s physical, mental and emotional beings.  

So I recollect that I laid down that night next to her and after she had fallen asleep, I began to practice my pranayama, which literally (in Hindu yoga) means the regulation of the breath through certain techniques and exercises.  I would let the breath in by slowly opening my lungs using my chest muscles and diaphram so that the air would simply fill them and not rush in with the force of autonomic breathing.  It was like you were allowing the air outside to replace the air inside like if you opened a door from one room and the air outside mixed with the air inside.  This was done slowly, painfully (literally) so.  The effect was as if you were drowning.  Yet, enough oxygen was getting to your brain that you did not pass out.  Once the lungs were completely full, the breath was held for a number of seconds counted in the otherwise silent mind.  Once the number was complete, the breath would be removed in the same process as the breath was taken in.  This process was repeated until you either passed out or something very different happened, as I was to discover.

After a few weeks of passing out and waking up in the morning, I didn’t.  Instead something else began to occur.  A type of relaxation.  In the midst of the absolute panic of suffocation (self imposed I might add) the physical body submitted to the process and became completely physiologically aligned with the reality of that breath pattern.  It was a moment I will never forget.  It was a release of a grip that held me in place, my Soul.  In that moment, I discovered that through pranayama, I could command my body to release my Soul, by threatening it with cessation through passing out of consciousness (passing out) or not letting it have what it needed to overtake me.  It was a siege warfare of sorts if you will.  A battle of wills.

It was in this moment that I “met” my Soul.  It was distinct from the body.  Distinct from the mind.  Distinct from the emotions.  It was its own distinction with its own atributes.  I had been in this state before but never like this, i.e. self induced.  I lay in that state spacially associated with the bodymind complex but not aware as it for some time.  My Soul was now in complete control of all autonomic functions of the body and the body knew it.  The body laid there obediently.

I remember seeing the Soul body.  I looked at my hands and saw the distortion of the visual field that indicated its presence.  If one were to draw an outline around a body and instead of the body inside the lines you had what looks like heat waves coming off of hot pavement or sand, that is what it was like.  Only the heat was not hot.  Not hot, not cold, not either, not both, not with or without temperature.  Something so unique there really are no words.

I remember shifting my “visual” focus over to the one laying next to me, my beautiful muse, the love of my life.  I could “see” the same presence hovering in the same spacial location as her body and so I “reached” over with that mirage hand and touched hers.  I could “feel” the contact and so I shook her Soul and it responded to me!   I said, “hey, let’s go out and play.”  Her Soul said, “I have to be asleep.”  My Soul said, “who told you that you have to be asleep?”  Her Soul said, “no one, it’s just what I have to do right now.”  I asked a few more times and then I got the feeling that something or someone was watching me, very closely, like when you lean in for emphasis on something you say.

I was immediately aware that it was the same presence that I felt on my 14th birthday. This time the presence was giving me the impression that what I was experiencing was not in and of itself sustainable.  It was connected to something much bigger and much greater and my experience of it was isolated and connected to the body and therefore limited and temporary.  The presence wanted to share my inner being in a form of intimacy that I had never experienced before.  I refused and then in an instant of panic released my body from the grip I had on it and immediately it gasped and breathed deeply and as soon as its consciousness received that food, the consciousness as my Soul faded away.

The memory remained.  But the experience did not.  I found that fascinating.  I was also fascinated to see if the love of my life remembered too.  I was determined to not spoil the pot and I was not going to say anything about what happened.  If she said anything about it, then it was going to come from her without any prompt from me.  I acted as normal as possible.  At first she did not say anything, and acted completely normally.  We kissed said hello and good morning and started to get ready for the day.  Then I noticed that she was acting wary, standoffish.  This was not normal.  Normally we were inseparable, suffocatingly so.  It was the way we both liked it.  We were in love with our suffocating love.

As we were getting ready to go out for the day to our daily routines, everything changed in a single moment.  I went ahead of her as she locked the door to our apartment.  She said, “wait for me.”  I said, “we’re late, catch up.”  Then as I turned around I was struck in the back by a force that knocked me down.  I was out of breath and could not get back up.  When I got my breath back, I still could not walk and she helped me back into the apartment and onto the bed.  My legs were not working.  I was literally paralyzed from the waist down.  I had no idea what had happened and neither did she.  However, I realized I could not work and that they had to be informed.  I had sick days saved up and told her to call down or go down and let them know I would not be at work.  She was hesitant to leave me, but did so.  I did not see her for quite some time because she did not come home.

It must have been a few days.  I was able to slowly get up and my legs returned to me enough to get around but not strong enough for a full day at work.  I started calling around to find out where she was.  It turns out she was with a friend of ours and her boyfriend.  She was scared and did not want to come home.  I asked her friend why she felt that way and she said that she was scared of me and could not explain why.  She wanted to know if I had harmed her in any way and I said no.  I found out later that my love had confirmed the same to her, there was no hurting, physical or otherwise.  She was just scared to death to be around me.

I hung up the phone and it was another day before I saw her.  I had gone back to work and came home from work and she and her girlfriend were there packing some things.  I came in the room and they stood by each other defensively.  I was totally taken aback by this behavior.  I had done nothing to her and she and I both knew that to be the case.  We loved each other and so something else was the matter.  I asked her what the issue was and she said, “I just don’t feel comfortable around you.  There is something about you that is not normal, not like everyone else and I am scared of it.  So I am going to go to my friend’s house for now.  I’ll call you.”  Then they left with a few things of hers and for the next week we talked on the phone, my heart  breaking with every single sound that struck my ear through the earpiece of that phone.

I knew it then, it was over.  It would be several years later that it actually “ended”, that great and mighty and strange love, but it did end.  We would have many more adventures together and try and patch things up, but it eventually ended in her finding someone else that was more aligned with her way of looking at the world and they hooked up at a photographer’s retreat and left me in the dust.

All this time I never broke my commitment to not speaking about the incident in the hope of finding some confirmation that she remembered the experience that freaked her out so bad she left a sincere love because of it.  The only line I ever got out of her was this, “you should try and be more physical, not so spiritual.”  I will always love how direct and ultimately wise she was.  As I looked back on those words said in a supermarket check out line as we saw each other for the very last time, I could feel that they were like words of advice given to an alien who needed to not be exposed on a very hostile planet.  Like, “if you wanna stay hidden, you better not do that again.”  I could see it in her face that she knew what happened, but she never said it out loud and I never pressed her about it.

I went on, so did she.  I heard about her here and there, tried to go to some extreme lengths to get her back, but ultimately resigned to my broken heart and my room in the last house we shared that I now shared with an ambitious roommate who had a plan.

The Experience – Part 4: Music


blankI had always been interested in music, mostly on the listening side.  My step father is a musician and a music teacher and played stringed instruments and is a great singer.  He and my mother sang together in my childhood before their divorce while he played guitar and I would sit and listen to the harmonies and the wonderful sound of the guitar and my mind would be lifted in true and deep joy.

I dabbled with a stand up piano that came into our house for a while.  I played whatever sounded good, not songs, just melodies, an endless chain of melodies.  Songs were outside of my interest at the time.  I just played the music I was hearing all around me.  It was always pulsing and moving around me in an endless swirl of atmospheric harmonies.  I could hear them much better then.  As I got older they faded until I only hear them at the time of this writing when I am in nature or if I am in a quiet place.  I now have 6 children of my own, so quiet time is pretty much at a premium these days!

After I left the zen monastery, I integrated back into my co-op housing, paid my rent and went about trying to “get back to normal” as best I could.  The Buddha was certainly on my shoulder tapping a lot, but I also had many other influential ideas running around inside my head.  As I mentioned earlier, I was undecided in my major.  After I came back to school the fall after my summer experience with zazen, I declared my major as philosophy with a minor in comparative religions.

I got back to “the stacks” and everything was really humming along at a good pace.  Normal had certainly not gone far off to play and was solidly back in control of my experience.

Shortly after beginning my first class of the semester, I got knock on my room door and I opened it to one of the coop members letting me know my dad was downstairs and wanted to come up for a visit.  I was delighted!  I could not help my enthusiasm.  I really liked my step dad.  He taught me all about music and how much it can be a real joy in your life.

As I came closer to the door I could see that he held a guitar case in one hand and a larger case in the other.  My step dad was always wanting to play music so I thought he had come all this way to play music and cheer me up!  I opened the door and gave him a hug and he said, “Merry Christmas, son.”  Nevermind the fact that it was not even Thanksgiving yet, but I assumed it was an early present and said so.  He concurred with me and we went upstairs to my room.  Once we were inside he sat down at the chair at my desk and I laid out the two cases on my pallet on the floor.  I opened the first one, a square, mustard colored, cloth Fender electric guitar travel case, a real nice one.

Inside was something so beautiful I had no words for it.  I caught my breath and dad said it was a 1972 Vintera Series Telecaster Deluxe.  He said it played the richest tones he had ever heard and said if I was going to start playing the guitar then this was the one that I should start on.  I was in tears.  I so badly needed something to ground me to the Earth after the summer that I just had and this was absolutely perfect.  This was just the right thing to give me.  I still had one case to go though.  So I opened the long black case and inside this one was a creme colored 1971 Fender Telecaster Precision Bass.  Dad said they would sound amazing together. 

I was beside myself.  He said he would be back later in the week with some amplifiers and stuff to get me started.  I just sat there dumbfounded.  As I spent the rest of the afternoon with him he showed me some basic chords and then later in the day he had to go.  After he left I spent the next week playing them both until my fingers literally bled.  I did not have an amplifier but I could hear the strings and did not tire of the way it made me feel when I played it.

Finally he showed up with the amplifiers.  One was a Fender Super Champ and the other was a Peavey Combo Amp.  I was literally in heaven on Earth.  All the accessories including strings, cords, tuner, straps and headphones.  He spent the next few hours listening to me play the chords I had been taught.  I had been practicing a lot and he said I was a natural.  My heart beamed with pride and I knew right then and there that these stringed instruments were going to be a part of my life for the rest of my life.

Music took a very large part of me that year and gobbled it up.  Most days I would spend from the time I got up to the time I collapsed playing between guitar and bass.  I wrote song after song after song of instrumentals and started playing around with singing.  After a while I found my voice and from there I almost completely forgot about school, my job at the library and my friends.

That, however, did not last forever and balance soon returned to my life.  I continued to study and play instruments and pick up equipment when I could afford it.  It was then that I founded my first media company, Dandelion Paper Media in Milwaukee, WI. Dandelion Paper Media was dedicated to the underground music scene in Milwaukee from 1984 to 1986 (the year I sold it to a buddy and founded I Am Marketing and Media Services).  We worked closely with the amazing folks at Galivant Media Group in putting on shows and promoting some talented bands at venues we called Watermelon Sugar…3 bands for 3 bucks!  It was a total blast and I cut my chops at promotion and print media working my fingers to the bone.  It was also the time when I was forming my band and working hard on my mastery of the guitar and the electric bass.  I met Brian Ritchie when he and I were kids.  Great guy, had dinner with him at my apartment.  But that was the way things were, fast loose and we did everything immediate, visceral, which was like the Femmes’ sound and a lot of the bands of that time.  It also was the time when I developed my first visions of zero footprint organizations and ad hoc success.

Overhead had to be low and you had to be fast on your feet to get the scoop.  You also were the editor, the jounalist, the artist, the producer and every other part of the organization too, all of us were, wherever we were, whatever we were covering or promoting.  As the years went by we just perfected it and kept pushing the boundaries of what tech and flying by the seat of our pants could do for media.

But it was the music that defined me.  I wanted to be the star too.  I certainly practiced hard enough and had the bandmates and songs, but it was just not in the cards really because my love of media and information was just too seductive and I would always want to be on the other side of the spotlight archiving experience and curating responses.  I was a PR guy, not a rock star.  I had a few moments in the sunlight and they were great, even had some groupies, lol.  But my first love was always information and PR, great PR.

My writing was something that was certainly of interest to the fans of the shows that we would cover/promote and I became a pretty well known poet during that time in Milwaukee (1984 – 1987).  Working with Cactus, one of the great voices of that time in Milwaukee, I learned to really narrow my voice to find the deep kernels of truth that ripped through my young mind.

When we founded I Am Marketing and Media Services, we got some of our first real clients, businesses in the area, downtown Milwaukee and the surrounding metropolis and a few in Madison.  This is where I tasted my first drink of the blood of the global media beast and wanted more.  Let it be said though, it was the music, always the music that was my muse.  It still is, and poetry too.

Continue reading “The Experience – Part 4: Music”