States of Stress and Their Undoings

comments 15
Christ / Course Ideas

When I stepped out of the building in which I work this evening, my head seemed to have been pressed into a perfect, steaming cube– a polished alloy ingot of ordered rectilinear thoughts.  You could have bounced a laser off it.  My normally fluid mind had been sintered by the heat of prolonged concentration into a dazed ceramic.  Even my cells had conformed to the geometric demands of the day’s efforts, having tugged their cytoskeletons into current-conducting Platonic forms.

I got a lot done, but sometimes it can be hard to stop concentrating, to look out into the distance and become non-local when you have a task before you to which you are committed.  Something has to give so that a holy thought can shatter the glass your consciousness has become.  When it finally comes, however, there is no shattering– just a gentle melting.  That is how crystals come undone.  Grain by grain they let go of one another, say their good-byes, and flow away.  Or are absorbed into the sky.

Now, tonight, piece by piece, I am drifting away like that, slowly emitting a day-long session of mental combustification into the space above me.

* * * * *

Dedicated concentration is what delivers results in the world we seem to occupy.  In our world we admire and appreciate those who dedicate themselves to a task and work hard to accomplish it, those who make commitments and keep them, those who provide the type of customer service that gives others that wonderful feeling that their every need will be attended to.  Sometimes a lot piles on, however, and trying to live up to the vision of who we want to be can be stressful.

Which parts of this latter experience are truly necessary, and which are caused by the habitual patterns of lack and expectation?

I don’t think the issue is whether or not we should be finding ourselves in these positions of needing to get the harvest in before the season turns—meaning, I’m not suggesting the answer is to just think if life were better we wouldn’t be in these taut positions.  Rather, I think this is an issue of what we bring with us inside our bag of meanings to sprinkle upon and add unto the simple living of what is in front of us.  Take everything else away, and what remains is the obvious reality that we each serve one another.  Of that there can be no doubt.  I don’t think it can be otherwise, as every experience or encounter is the arising of relationship.  Every moment is an exchange.  Every moment is a holy exchange.  And then… I bring a little something else to it.

That little bit extra is what gives rise to a polished alloy ingot of thought.  That little bit extra is what might happen if it doesn’t go as well as we hope, or doesn’t get done on time, or within the budget.  That little bit extra is what we’ll be surely left with if we fail to hit the mark.  That little bit extra is the idea of what we should be capable of being, doing, or accomplishing if we were as good, or as capable as we would like to be.

Thankfully, Jesus hits these situations with hickory bats, and they don’t come back.  As our hitting instructor, he reminds us in his various instructional videos that there is nothing we need do.  Just swing the bat naturally, and leave the rest to me, he says.

Some days I awaken to the sound of my voice telling me there is a lot I need to do before the sun next goes down.  It’s a pattern the world teaches us.  Jesus also tells us (in A Course in Miracles and again in A Course of Love) that what we must bring to the moment in order to heal is willingness.  We have to swing the bat.  Willingness, I find, can be an effort to sustain sometimes, but it is not like the effort of bailing the boat at half a bucket an hour slower than the water is entering.  That is not willingness, that is futility.

Willingness is not so serious a venture.  It is not an effort to sustain one’s tenuous grip on a treacherous slope, but the wherewithal to just let go– to wave good-bye to your dazed ceramic inner life, and flow away into the Peace of the present moment, even as you do the very job you find yourself needing to do.

While Jesus watches wood-grain embossed situations fly out over the grandstands, he sometimes offers words of wisdom.  Another gem from A Course of Love is his encouragement of our realizing that we would not be other than we are.  We don’t need to take on the pressure of presenting to the world a perfect life.  We are Love, with a shape.  We are who we are.  It’s okay.  Next time my consciousness is suitable for conducting experiments in high-energy optics, I’ll try and remember that.


  1. I address the parts of thee now reassembling into what ever art you are now of this moment, a swirling vortex of transformation outside of your own doing; you are an energetic shifting held in place by the desire to experience this inning as M, expressing of course a shared experience, but so magically tied to words that bring this shifting mind/body/spirit aspect of this life to life with new eyes. I’ve noticed how much I’m learning from you and others how to hold the playfulness in the midst of serious business – but the body often holds and shifts more slowly – I think you call it out – this ceramic conductor melt down as one goes between. Curtseying to you my friend in gratitude with a silly twist 🙂


    • Thank you, Marga. You are right about the body’s lagging behind sometimes. It’s like it has a memory of the “old way” stored up in all it’s nooks and crannies, and one by one they are gently corrected. I am facing a day in the ceramic Zen monastery again, with renewed aplomb. As one of my super heroes Walter Russell once wrote, “What I must do, I will desire to do, and make an art of it.” That is one of my all time fav’s.



      • As I was at work when your relaying of WR’s words sunk into me for good (I hope), I wrote them down and posted them up for all the good workers at work to see 🙂


        • Awesome. Well you’ll love this one. Have been artfully compelling myself towards completion in the ceramic oven both days this weekend. Then the power went out.

          Seventh inning stretch, rain delay, call it what you will. Play will resume tomorrow. 🙂



          • Good play – taking down the power! My lights blinked on and off in unison, I kid you not, just as I read your reply. Magic is afoot!


  2. Hi Michael,

    “Every moment is an exchange. Every moment is a holy exchange. And then… I bring a little something else to it.”

    The idea of boundaries, how we impose them and how they impose upon us, has been ripening from thought into vision of late. Boundaries are there, everywhere, but they’re not real, not solid and permanent, but fluid, imagined, arbitrary, useful and deceptive, sometimes all at once.

    But you’re right, the way the psyche moves from one place to another, leaves a mark just as the crumpled sheets of the bed do on our face. It’s okay only when we stop arguing and accept the good night’s sleep, wrinkled face and all. We don’t have to like something to still accept its imposition on our will or fate. But arguing, or wishing it were not so, like the dream of perfection, or separation, is something we can awaken from to the immediacy of the sensed and embodied world.



    • Beautifully said, Debra. A thought just came about boundaries, and symmetries in physics, which are a type of boundary. A physicist told me once that Einstein had placed an artificial limit on the extension of his theories of relativity because he was unwilling to part with some of the symmetries he had found so beautiful in Newtonian physics, which runs perfectly well both backwards and forwards (if you play the video of a bouncing ball backwards, it doesn’t violate any basic laws of motion, for instance).

      How many invisible boundaries have I left in place that simply don’t need to be in their present positions? Is creative movement and transformation akin to a reshaping of these invisible limits and influences?

      Anyway, thanks as always for your comments which lead me to new places.



      • Hi Michael,

        Your posts always inspire me, along with a current re-reading of Norman O. Brown’s, Love’s Body. It seems more often that ideas that currently find a place in my day-to-day, show up everywhere, which is really helpful for seeing how they are a part of our world, both our thought world and our thought about world.

        Thinking about boundaries is also to attend to how we place them, or see them placed and what they do for us, yes? I am beginning to realize how much they have to do with our capacity to see the other and to open up to their perspective and ultimately to deepen our love of them and the world around us.

        Einstein, from where he stood, did seem to bridge Newtonian ideas over to those who would go further toward the understanding of the quantum world. Perhaps he didn’t want to discount Newton’s ideas totally because he felt that kinship from all he had absorbed from his ideas.

        I think there’s a beauty in building these bridges from the past into the present, which is why I enjoy reading and absorbing 20th century ideas. Part of me insists it isn’t enough to think on one’s own after so many have gone before us toiling in the deeps, leaving vast riches for us to enjoy.

        I’d say the same for Jesus, Mohamed, Buddha and all the poets, philosophers, or anyone who has left us with access to their gifts.

        I’d say the same for us and all who desire to sift through the deep wells to build bridges that allow love to carry over the boundaries that keep us apart.

        Sometimes the people and places closest to us offer the most opportunity for our practice of love, yes? I know it is true for me, especially after this week at work.

        Likewise, your posts and our conversations here mean a lot to me and help me to further the ideas, hopefully into life and love.



        • Yes, it is often “the people and places closest to us offer the most opportunity for our practice of love.” I agree. It may not always seem to be the case, but I think there is deep truth in that. Jesus says in A Course of Love that “our lives are our curriculum.”

          As to thinking on one’s own, I know I would not have made it out of “my own” world without the access to the gifts and blessings of those who have gone before. At the same time, I think it is our task to go beyond, not to say that we could ever be more than anyone else at any other time (past or future), but more like each age has the potential to be the fulfillment of the previous. The great sages and representatives of Love in our past have set the table, opened the door that we might step through it.

          I can’t tell, though, if there is any meaning to the idea of this being a joining with them, a leaving of their necessity behind, or both at once! I think these may be moot sentiments, as we move into agelessness.

          I do so like the idea of being a bridge. Of becoming bridges to one another, to past and future, to planes adjacent and remote. A lovely thought.



          • Hi Michael,

            “our lives are our curriculum.”

            That is a good reminder, especially as that idea keeps me engaged in the givens of my life, instead of pining for things to be some other way. Arguing with our lives misses the opportunity that the curriculum offers.



  3. Thank you for this valuable observation. Willingness is the wherewithal to let go, to flow away into the Peace of the present moment. It answers questions like: ‘How can I manage? What can I do?’ And another situation with embossed hickory wood grain flies over my head here in Thailand…


    • With all of us letting go as often as we can and must, I don’t know if I dare to look up into the heavens. The angels must have a situation recycling system up there or something; otherwise we’d be ducking lest we get smacked in the head by wood-grain embossed situations everywhere we went. 🙂



  4. Syncs abound as me and the gals from Kyoto show up to the party with a breathing reminder about living life as the ultimate art project that it actually is.

    I am not reading this post in it’s full glory until this morning with the happy chuckle of how many of us are reading in seeming aloneness and isolation, yet realizing we are all on the same page. Spooky action at a distance is bleeding through all over from so many posts that I am reading after the fact of broadcasting from within the shell. It is a bit spooky in that so delicious to have boundaries drop and find such love and helping hands awaiting us way.

    Maybe the whole point of the blog-o-sanctuary is to be another “safe place” to tangibly feel the presence of oneness without the body feeling like it is going completely crazy coming out of isolation.

    I have been actively sending out a SOSs for a bit of help and it is just amazing to see what returns on the breezes that blow through the mind.



    • Maren, your sentiments basically beat me to the punch. I have been recognizing these things as well of late, and reflecting similarly upon the nature of this virtual messaging. Seems like other messages are also being sent back and forth at the same time by spiritual pigeons fly the friendly inner skies.



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