Ghost Funnels • 6 June 2010

Sirens last night. Wailing down the hill from Main Street, over the traintracks. Not like an ambulance alarm or the screaming fire horn we had out on the Ranch. Instead: relentless, eerie, mixed in over storm-winds and summer rain.

The city-sized whine woke me up with memories of WWII air raids. Straaange.

Feeling ghostly, and staying sleepy to protect a 4:45 wake-up, I took the pulse on Twitter. Tha-thrum, tha-thrum, tha-thrum, tweets bumping down the queue. People all around me if unseen, stepping outside in search of a funnel cloud, ridiculing the giddy TV weatherman, waiting it out in the basement with a bottle of Scotch. I felt them close, cluing me in to this new Midwestern rendition of the natural disaster. 

Seriously: a roaring 300-mile-an-hour cloud reaching down to spin select bits right out of existence? They particularly like motor homes, school buses and the Main Streets of tiny suffering prairie towns. There were something like 11 of them last night, from Illinois to Ohio. On the Fugita Scale—the Richter of clouds—there are six stages of storm. The last three are described as such: F4 = homes leveled; F5 = homes blown away; F6 = inconceivable. Anything above 319 mph is an F6. 

In the basement, the Editor and I listened to the thunder and rain while Twitter tweeted and a red clot of pixels edged east on wundergrounds’s Doppler. Abruptly the rain stopped. Señor Nonchalant shuddered, Look what just happened to the air. 

Everything was flat. I felt dizzy and short of breath. The red pixels blipped over the Old West Side. I felt haunted from all directions in spacetime—buried in the packed dirt basement, pinpointed by god’s hellroaring proboscis, full of false memory that I am fifty and fearless behind blackout curtains in a London basement. As apocalypses go, tornadoes are the most haunted.

Practically speaking, don’t get where the EPA and FEMA are at on this. Sure, I understand the difficulty in guaranteeing the immobility of techtonic plates, but in theory funnels are pluggable. We should be able to manipulate death spirals, not take them lying down. Much less curled up in our dirt-floored basements, asleep next to the washer-dryer on a black Manduka. A species so capable of destruction and denial can’t even plug some funnels. We are not keen.

Speaking of dumb, for a full thirty minutes on Tuesday, I was absorbed into the giant holes in the earth. It started with the new house-eating sinkhole in Guatemala City, photographed from the air with the shadow of a helicopter in its maw and fed through some margin of my RSS. Which led me, wilfing, to Syria, where humans have dug the Mirny diamond mine so deep its winds suck aircraft right inside. Mirny now has its own no-fly zone, like any good field of battle. There’s a mine-hole in Yellowknife so big it has its own airstrip, and a smooth, terrifying glory hole drilled in to the Monticello dam.

When the Editor looked over my shoulder and told me to stop being morbid, I woke up from haunting the holes of earth and aestheticizing its spillways. There is a little bit of mindfulness growing in me, around the internet as an energy-hole. How do I want to use it? For attention, escape, simulated productivity, pseudo-education, the pursuit of unconciousness? I am a happy little cyborg, and regular bits of self-expression and relational play seem very wonderful; but I don’t want to be a tool of received structures that suck the meaning I make in to their revenue spectacle. To live fully, fearlessly within this infrastructure without becoming its drone: it takes a lot of care. Some of you—SB, KK, JD, GB—you give me clues.


The summer of viparita chakrasana started on Monday, Memorial Day, at YogaView in Chicago. Rather than yawp and hurl my way through it in a new room, I waited for the easy assist. Perfect beginning. Next day, back home, I made it over on the forearms for the first time. This is in some ways more difficult than taking it straight from the hands, simply because the maneuv has its own original fears which have to be mapped and mined.

But in the full expression, I got to the more precipitous edge and then observed it. This is a pattern. The rare occasion a mental block arises, I will instinctively sit with it rather than blasting right through. Backbend-standup was the same… I contemplated it a little playfully, edging closer and closer, until it couldn’t not happen. No hurling of limbs or other derring-do.

It’s as if a part of me enjoys the leverage to delve back inside the emotions that well up at the block, using it as some kind of fulcrum to pry open the unconscious. Inching in, using the body itself to push ghosts out in to the open, allowing the positive emotions of interest and commitment to buffer the negative energies of fear, boredom and distraction. That seems to be the way for now. But still, the block feels solid and frustrating; and I don’t understand it.

I guess it’s not coincidental that tomorrow I’m finally making good on an old plan to get my head shrunk in this town. UM is the one big-school bastion of traditional psychoanalysis. Relationships with your parents, shoring up the subconscious, getting a handle on your projections: you got a problem with that?

UM therapy is boldly old school, from before the rise of this results-based, ad-hoc CBT stuff. I guess Ashtanga and Vipassana have made me a sucker for clear method. No need to personalize my processing systems, bending them to accommodate my ego. 

Some of my friends here talk about therapy like we’re all in some Philip Roth novel. I wonder how much I’ll want to say. 

But back to the bending. It’s not just emotion and unconscious muck that pools up against the block at the very end of practice. There’s also enormous energy, which tries to redirect out my mouth. Aarrrrrrgh! 

I’d forgotten this principle of intermediate practice: as the backbend sequence grows complex, you have to learn to preserve a bead of energy. You suck the energy-bead through the middle of the series, guarding it in the pit of your belly, or the belly of the muscles—I don’t know which. Then for the tremendous demands of backbending, and later handstanding, you give it your most clean, refined fuel. How else is the crazy stuff going to come together?

In ut pluthihi, you burn off the fumes.