I call it "campus." From my new room where trees and sunlight decorate the outside of my windows, I put my backpack on and venture outside for another beautiful day at Isis Oasis, a very educational setting. I've got my laptop, wallet, phone, water, and a book of my choice. It's not that I have to head over to the pavilion right now, but after a morning of meditation, yoga, and dance on my porch, I'm ready to meet and greet others so that I can help accomplish something. That something is mostly in line with Loreon's ideals, since she is the owner of the property, but I'm much more fond of what she offers to the world than that by mainstream academia or previous employers. Here, I admire the person that I work for, a woman who, at age 79, is still owning and operating a business, is without debt, and has outlived three men. I see that I can learn a lot from her - both her successes and failures.
I also enjoy the company of all the people that I work with. Most are fairly laid-back, but even those that get huffy make for a good show. Each person has something unique to offer, and it is my pleasure to be able to see and interact with the growth and change of the community because of the intermingling personalities. Everyone here is older than me, most by at least twenty years. I think it's easier to have a more introspective and meaningful existence when I'm not surrounded by my own age-group, which seems (to me) to be full of people looking to prove themselves and seek approval in a shallow manner.
I did have plans to live with an attractive Argentinian man in his mid-20s by this time. He's actually a big part of the reason I came out to Isis Oasis in the first place. We skyped often, and once he professed his desire for me to be his, I couldn't wait to hop on a plane and enjoy the comforts of a warm man and a cute apartment in Buenos Aires. I'd learn his tongue, although he already knew mine from studying abroad in Australia, and then perhaps, as he helped me establish an online income, we'd be able to travel together. Perfect. I still had to wait, however, for him to work out some financial matters and get the apartment, so I hopped a plane to northern California, where I'd be able to see the Redwoods before I leave the States. I knew some novelty would ease the anticipation, and a two-month workaway at a retreat center would do the trick.
Well, the two months have come and passed. Within this time, Carlos and I decided not to live together. He would like to focus on himself and his work, and I should do the same before I get trapped into marriage with someone. But also within this time, a programmer from the Netherlands has contacted me, and we have been collaborating on some applications that will revolutionize education, as well as provide the location-independent income that I was seeking.
So, it seems, things work out. Plans change, but as I go with the flow, rather than focus on expectations not being met, I find myself living a life that I'm not able to imagine before it happens. I have already known relationships with men, and I have already known city life with young people; I was able to daydream Carlos and Buenos Aires to the point where I fell out of love before I even arrived.
But now, I was left with what felt like a predicament. "Well, what am I going to do with my life, then? I gotta go somewhere...continue on the journey that I have set for myself, yah know, traveling and stuff...that's what I made this blog for, right?"
What I didn't realize was that establishing oneself in a routine for more than two to three months is okay, and can also be very rewarding! (Go figure, huh?) I'm entirely welcomed at Isis Oasis, and Loreon is very fond of me. Everyone seems to enjoy the energy and effort that I contribute, and I enjoy it as well. It's simple, really - cooking, cleaning, and other miscellaneous things that Loreon needs help with, like buying green folders online for our Heqet-themed Convocation. Oh, and also playing with and training Magic, Loreon's baby ocelot/serval mix. I'm able to understand the complexities of owning a retreat center and animal sanctuary, and I can empathize with and calm Loreon when she is stressed out from it all, yet not get too emotionally involved since it is not my business. For a little extra cash, though, I've also been selling books online that the neighbor, Dan, finds at Salvation Army for a buck or so.
There were a couple things, though, that bothered me about Isis Oasis. The noon ritual in the little temple everyday gave me an uninspired dogmatic feel to it all. I also see hypocrisy when there exists the vision of peace, but the consumption of products that cause war (like oil). So, I wonder, what's up with all this talk of "spirituality?" Is it helping or hurting?
I picked up Melvin Power's A Practical Guide to Self-Hypnosis from one of the book shelves in the lodge. The introductory chapters commented that we actually use self-hypnosis all the time; we use the power of suggestion to convince ourselves of anything, from our public speaking abilities to the existence of God.
I've always been interested in understanding why people think the way they do. In an English class at Hudson Valley Community College, I had to do a research paper, and I was able to pick any topic I wanted. What did I choose? "Cults."
From my research I saw that textbooks define the word cult as basically a startup religion, merely another belief system, but of smaller size. Okay, that's great, but why does it start in the first place? I came to understand that our mind is our own little cult, and when multiple minds connect and agree on ideologies, a bigger cult forms.
I continue to be interested in the powers of the mind, which is why I love to be surrounded by environments like Isis Oasis, where some minds begin to agree on a concept which is very loosely defined in our society - spirit. I then choose to interact with these minds openly, but skeptically. I participate in rituals and ask many questions in order to gain insight as to what exactly one believes and why s/he believes it.
Some will say that most are fakers, that they just go along with the show because it makes them feel good, but I hold a different stance. When someone tells me that they have used past-life regression to come to the conclusion that she was once a high priestess to the Goddess Isis in ancient Rome, I believe her, but it doesn't mean it is objectively true. It means that her mind has indeed experienced said event. However, perhaps it came about solely through the use of suggestion.
When we suggest that there is something even called "spirit," then we open up a whole new can of worms. We begin to explore spirit, without really knowing what it means.
To clarify things in my own mind, I began to separate everything I experience and everything I've heard others experience into three categories - the working cliché of 1) mind, 2) body, and 3) spirit. When it came down to it, I couldn't find anything to put into the spirit category. When someone says that they have a "spiritual" experience, like being visited by a ghost, it sounds to me like that experience would still only be one of body or mind; the visited is experiencing this event physically with the senses of the body and mentally with the awareness of the mind.
Next, I chose the operation of intuition - the sense of knowing something without reasoning. For example, when a stranger walks into a room, I may be receiving a certain "vibe" from him. Is this spiritual? Malcolm Gladwell discusses this concept in his book, Blink. Intuition is very real, but it is not so much of a mystery. He states that we use pattern recognition to make decisions in an instant. If you've had a lot of experience with people, you will use the prejudices you've gained in order to draw a conclusion. So again, this is only mind, maybe with a hint of bodily sensation if you react psychosomatically.
So, where did all this talk about spirit come from? My dictionary tells me that the origin of the word is from the Latin term, "spirare," or "breathe," which then turned into "spiritus" for "breath" or "spirit." Does this mean that when we get rid of body and mind, we are breath? A pretty metaphor, but still not exactly what I'm looking for.
After crystal bowl meditation one morning, I spoke with Aryshta, Jerome, and Kim about spirit. From their perspectives, when we use deities, we are personifying energies that can aid us, making it easier for us to connect. That led me to question whether these energies are from the mind or would exist even without mind and fall into the mysterious category of spirit.
Jerome and Kim are clairaudient mediums, and they said that when channeling, they must first quiet their minds, or at least not be distracted by their own little voices. Only then can they hear the other voices that are trying to give them information. This would make it seem that there is indeed something separate from mind, but it still needs the mind to get the message through; the mind must translate the message into a comprehensible language for the receiver.
Aryshta held a guided meditation a few weeks later. I didn't go. Sometimes it's worrisome to let others direct my mind in a vulnerable meditative state. Instead, I finished watching a movie that kept me up late the night before called Holy Smoke. Kate Winslet plays a young Australian woman who is hijacked by an exit counselor after living in an ashram in India and refusing to return home. I thought about how this relates to my life. It seems that I also left my biological family in search of a new family, where I can be loved. Sometimes I feel loved, but is it love? Can I even define love? I can say that it is appreciation for the work I do. Any relationship seems to come down to appreciation. How much do you appreciate this person in your life? When I was living with my family, I did not appreciate them, and I felt unappreciated because I did not contribute. But here, I use my big heart, and my work benefit others. I worry, though, what happens if I can no longer benefit others? That's when you are banished from society, and the forest eats you alive, right? But even after 79 years, I see, Loreon is benefiting others, so it looks like there's hope for me too.
Recently, I discovered a practice that uplifts my spirit. Loreon has gifted me wings, and now I use my body, my mind, as well as that something else deep within me. I dance, and it flows out according to the beat, the music, or maybe the silence. The dance comes in all forms. Sometimes, I am sitting, and my body rocks back and forth to give my spine a massage. Or other times, I have my wings on, and I spin around in the sun. Maybe that's the spirit coming through, within those moments where I don't know why my body decides to do what it does, or how my mind comes to think what it thinks. I have an opportunity to explore that part of me, without worrying about paying bills or meeting others' expectations. I have found an oasis, as if by chance, where I can nurture myself before my next venture. I hear the winters here are chilly and rainy, so I do have plans to leave for Israel during that time, but for now, I like giving a part of myself to this property that gives so much back to me.
For more information on spirituality and science, I was recommended this great NPR piece.