Tiramisu • 2 July 2009

What does the hidden consciousness look like? Those layers underneath: what neuroscientists call delta state and Patanjali called dreamless sleep.

Are they some vast wordless moon-ocean, a space odyssey, the primordial void described in every creation story from tohu va bohu to tabula rasa? Yes. Something like that. Something has opened in my skull: what I once saw was just homeless men catatonic on the Santa Monica sidewalk. New Age bliss monkeys zonig out at dance. Brain-fried dissertators drinking to oblivion. And, if they’re lucky, a ashtangis dispassionately, disinterestedly given over to the breath after a hard week in the manduka trenches.

Nothing but spent-down selves who could use some coffee or a blue plate breakfast. Nothing but “atoms and the void.” Now I don’t know. I look for eye contact with these wastrels and it’s not uninteresting in there, in the void. It’s huge and elusive. So beautiful.

And sitting right on top of it—the mascarpone layer of the Cosmic Tiramisu—it seems like there is pure fucking chaos. Feedback turned all the way up, wildness that flies nowhere with rushing unreason, or what my alchemy teacher widens his eyes in the back room and calls Big Energy.

I don’t know. I finish practice wanting not silence, as usual, but speed metal and solitude. Race home without malice, without an agenda, without any interest in anything directional much less reason or words, close myself inside for thirty minutes with the windows shuttered and the lights off. This lizard is dense, dark, heavy, fast. I would have dramatized it, freaked myself out, or gotten carried away by it a few years ago. Now I finally get that it’s not even mine, and know enough to give it a container. It’s fine; it's nothing to worry about; it's beautiful. Beyond that, there’s not much more to say.

Next week begins nine days in silence with Shinzen. Hilariously good timing. In keeping with the So Above-So Below theme that won’t go away, I’m doing the retreat much differently this time—in a way that will undermine my tendency to self-hypnotize and spend everything from day three in freaky primordial bliss, doing photoshop tricks on the lightshow that plays on the backs of the eyelids once you finally shut up and draw the curtains for a few days. (Try it).

But… I am more and more suspicious that eyelid fireworks have become just as escapist as those in the Magic Kingdom. Vipassana-for-siddhis is a nice vacation, but if that’s all there is, I may as well cruise down to Disneyland. At least there I can get a popsickle and a suntan.

We’ll see what happens. Shinzen’s map of and through consciousness is a lot more built out than our basically useless version: dharana-dyana-samadhi. (A map made even more useless due to the bizarre misinformation that refined states of consciousness will simply arise without effort or practice. Why claim this if you don't even know? Would hatha yogis take an interest in the intricacies of mind if offered instructions as complex as those we’ve invented for asana the past 50 years?) In any case, his method essentially is hatha yoga as I understand it, just with far more accurate and efficient instructions. I cautiously (!) anticipate a mindfuck of the most mundane, non-trancey, non-“transcendent”, non-special, pretty boring sort. What comes after the mascarpone layer? Oh yeah… a blanket of coffee-flavored heavy cream. Solid, right here now, worldly, awake, unmistakeable… still savory. Presumably….