Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


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Like my brownhouse:
   tantric weekend ends
Sunday, November 14 1999
The biggest revelation of the day came during something termed "the Fire Breathing Exercise." Unlike most of the tantric rituals to which we were being exposed, this one actually had origins not in India, but amongst the American Indian. Mare, the several experienced goddesses and Mare's husband all lay on the floor and gave an initial demonstration of the procedure. It was, well, weird. They were running their hands down their bodies and between their legs, screaming, moaning, laughing and crying at the tops of their lungs, thrashing about and kicking their legs like they were collectively experiencing a grand mal epileptic seizure.
I figured they must be acting. I personally couldn't imagine doing anything like that with anywhere near the seriousness of intent they expected. But since I was in Rome, so to speak, when it came my turn, I did as Romans do, taking care to go through all the proper motions, doing everything precisely as instructed. I was taking deep breaths and roaring as loud as I could with each exhale, undulating my body with a mental focus on each of my seven chakras. Since we were all doing this together, the sound in the room created its own special form of space and made my personal roaring seem less embarrassing. It was group madness, really, something (I imagine) like the state induced by group chanting in primitive cultures. It was the sort of thing that's been missing from Western tradition for thousands of years, but gradually I realized that there was some serious power here.
It wasn't that anything in particular actually happened to me; I didn't actually let myself go enough to really experience anything too spectacular. But suddenly I could see the door to a new form of reality. It's a door I've seen before, but never without drugs. I was also overwhelmed by a profound emotion. I still don't know what that was, but it manifested as tears. It felt wonderful to cry, even to sob. When I opened my eyes I realized I was on the verge of seeing visions. With a little more effort and a slightly greater suspension of disbelief, I could have seen something really interesting, "God" for example.
Kim went considerably further than I did, up through the ceiling and out into space (so she reported afterwards). Others, even skeptics like myself, had similarly intense experience. I don't know exactly why this technique has such profound psychological and emotional effects, but I can attest that it definitely works. I suspect it's a combination of several things: hyperventilation, collective suggestibility, and the emotional effects of hearing and participating in group screams.
Up until this point it had seemed that all of this tantra stuff was mostly just wasted motion. It hadn't really been reaching me in any fundamental way, in any way that could overcome my inherent boredom with the needlessly mystical. But this was something different. This was a genuine key to another reality and as such could hardly be dismissed. I actually found myself thinking such things as "who needs LSD when you have this?" I also felt sorry for ultra-skeptics like my Dad, who you'd never catch dead at a tantric seminar. My Dad's brain is 76 years old and has never had its perceptions so deliciously bent. It was profoundly sad to think of his brain leaving this world without having ever had such a treat. But that's his choice. It goes back to that thing I'd heard yesterday about the "freedom of reality."

As exhausting for me as this tantric seminar was becoming, you can imagine what it must have been like for an instructor like Mare. Yet the only time she let someone else take the reins of the entire group was when she had a woman named Stephanie lead us in "t@ntric toning" exercises. These exercises were drawn from a professionally-produced videotape Stephanie had available for sale at the seminar (Kim bought one eventually).
T@ntric toning was a form of ultra-low-impact ærobics, sort of like Kim's NIA, but less influenced by dance and evidently drawing more from yoga. The most interesting part of Stephanie's gig was the things she asked us to visualize as we slowly stretched, craned and balanced. Her references consisted partly of mystical mumbo-jumbo such as "lift up the sky to give more room for your increased cosmic awareness." But it also had aspects of the Los Angeles-specific über wealth accumulation familiar to the BMW-driving goddesses present, things like "Imagine you're the woman hood ornament on a Rolls Royce."

Throughout the day today we did sessions of group sharing, going around the room and each of us giving our two-cents about various things. In one such session, we each contributed temporary items to "the alter" (a fat smiling Buddha surrounded by candles). In the process, interesting (and even tragic) tales were told. I took off one of my copper chain bracelets which I'd made back in 1995 and told about how the copper used to serve as wiring in a shack full of down and out rednecks. Now, as I was about to place it on the alter, I wished the copper wire to experience something new and beautiful in its new life as jewelry. I'd also contributed a hasty little sculpture I'd made from a walnut shell, a snail shell and a leaf, all of which I'd found immediately around Ca$h's house. It was to serve as an example that "beauty is all around us" and that it exists at all levels; that the world is literally "littered with beauty."
In another sharing session, the monologues took on more of the quality of group therapy. The personal nature of the tantric rituals had brought us together close enough that we felt we could share even the worst of our personal emotional scars. One tantress, for example, brought up an experience she'd had when she was younger and found herself in the hospital in the aftermath of a drug overdose. She remembered being stretched out on the hospital bed, unable to see or move but quite able to hear. She recalls the nurses discussing her sad plight amongst themselves. They weren't sympathetic in the least, saying such things as "Look at that little whore; it would have been for the best if only she'd died!"
The Electric Man told the tale of a recent tragedy in which his girlfriend had died of cancer. For a period during the balance of his monologue our consequent sympathy bought him considerable freedom to say even the most stupid of things. But it didn't take long for him to expend it all. He told us what had happened to him personally Friday night during the puja, revealing that he'd met his "soul mate." But then, he went on to say, the next day he'd discovered that he'd never see her again, that she had actually been Ca$h's girlfriend, and she and Ca$h had broken up later that night. (Ca$h subsequently began a fling with the only unclaimed Shakti at the seminar, a spunky 30-something woman named Nancy.) I love tales like this. Whenever self-important blowhards roughly stuff both feet in their mouths, it's a fascinating thing to watch.

During a vegetarian "Moroccan Feast" brought to Ca$h's house by caterers, I overheard one of the goddesses emotionally going on about a "recovered memory of abuse" from when she was a mere two years old. This memory had been unearthed from the ash heap of the supposedly forgotten by a therapist, of course.
Then this one new guy, who (along with his Polynesian wife) had just shown up today, got to talking about his membership in the "sovereign movement." People who are sovereign drop completely out of the big bad system, never getting a driver's license, social security number or credit card. They only work for cash and never pay for anything any other way. The principle benefit of living this way seems to be avoiding taxes (along with a few lesser indiginities perpetuated by the State). While the various goddesses were oohing and ahhing over this sovereign man's ballsyness, I was much closer to groaning. Mind you, I don't agree with everything the Man does with my tax dollars, but I'm enough of a pragmatist to concede that in a stable, civilized society everyone must contribute something tangible to the common good. People who get exercised about taxes just come across as selfish greedballs to me. I always think less of people when I find that taxes are one of the biggest chips on their shoulder.
Another topic hovering over the tantric seminar and informally addressed at the Moroccan Feast was the impending danger of Y2K. Everyone there seemed to have millennialist fears focused on the computers. I shouldn't have been surprised; reliance on technology has long been a concern of modern mystics. But the extend to which millennialist fears motivated these people was a wonder to behold. Ca$h, for instance, had just bought a bank of power inverters which will be part of a solar electric generating system which he hopes to have installed by January 1, 00. When he complained about the price of solar panels, I told him how the State of California had been forced to put concertina wire around their solar-powered highway signs to keep sociopathic millennialists away.
All this far-out discussion brought me back down to reality and reminded me that there's still plenty of useless, dangerous, and ridiculous thinking amongst these would-be Eastern mystics, even if their taste in art and music is commendable. People who waste their time worrying about excessive taxation, memories they "just recalled" from their infancy or the impending Y2K-induced end of the Universe are definitely failing to live up to their full potential.

In the evening there was yet another puja. Before it began, though, the men and women were separated and we discussed our respective feelings and concerns for the opposite sex. The Electric Man had a typically inane know-it-all bit of advice about what to do with women at a puja when you don't know how intimate they're willing to get. "As long as you don't touch them with your hands, you should be okay." he said. I watched Ca$h's face for an indication of agreement or scorn and detected only the stoniest trace of the latter.
Unlike that puja back on Friday night, during this ritual, the couples stayed couples while the singles got to move from one person to the next. I was pretty tired going in to this ritual, and by the time it was over I was exhausted and also somewhat bored. I think my problem is that I'm not really interested enough in sex to want to extend it, to make it drag on for a whole weekend. There's so many other things I'd rather be doing than staring endlessly into my girlfriend's eyes and telling her how much I worship her. Kim was disenchanted with my obvious malaise, but (mostly because I was being taped) I went through the motions.
I wasn't the only one who was exhausted. We'd planned to shoot some footage in the privacy of our bedroom upstairs, but all of us (including our Bnesque1 tantra-curious cameraman) were beat. We decided we had enough tape and called it quits for the evening.
As he was leaving, I heard the Electric Man telling Ca$h, "If I had anything to do with the breakup between you and your girlfriend, I'm really sorry about that." I couldn't believe it! I sort of half-expected Ca$h to punch the Electric Man in the nose, but Ca$h obviously found the situation as amusing as I did, merely saying, "You're giving yourself way too much credit here. I broke up with her because she wasn't experimental, and wasn't having enough sex with other men!"

On the ride home, Kim and I had a wide-ranging discussion about everything that had taken place in the seminar, from the gaffes of the Electric Man to the mysteries of the fire breathing exercise. There were a few points, though, where Kim's belief in human spirituality proved to be an impediment to mutual understanding. Like many rationalists, I believe the human brain is an extremely elaborate but still essentially buildable computer, and that consciousness is merely a fiction given to us by the software in our heads to help us better contextualize the data we process. I was telling Kim how souls, chakras, spirits and past lives are all fictions, but that they help us communicate when we're talking tantra. For example, without a discussion of chakras, it would have been difficult for Mare to explain how to successfully do the fire breath. As I was explaining the usefulness of sleep and dreams (by comparing them to the nightly procedures run by a heavily-used database server), Kim suddenly began demanding that I use "I" statements so I would "own" my utterances. It sounded like hippie clap trap to me, and I retaliated by joking that my dreams were all about other women. Bad mistake. For the rest of the evening (and into the next day), Kim badgered me to tell her about my adulterous dreams. It did no good to say I'd been joking. There's nothing that drains my energy quicker than being monotonously grilled about non-existent infidelity.

1By Bn, I mean my chum & co-worker from the days when I lived in Charlottesville. Bn probably has a web site, but I have no idea where. (Oh yeah, actually I do!) He's a member of the gothcore band Bella Morte these days.

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