Secure the Bagua

by Female Background

The rising interest in the occult, and in mystical practices generally, is a feminine resurgence of the marginalized. It is a post-truth recourse for failing cultural systems and ancestral abuses. These practices are an alternative to power in favor of presence. They embrace the complex, the elaborately specific, and the simultaneity of opposites.

There’s a lot of paranoia and skepticism around this interest. Esoteric, mystical, and spiritual practices are being teased from various cultures, providing fertile thematic territory for mass-market products and services. These ingredients, when combined, are caustic to the sensibilities of identity politics. To borrow a practice or concept from another culture or tradition can feel like the legacy of colonial theft, with cynical gatekeepers assuming all intercultural learning is symptomatic of the same disease.These traditional practices applied in a piecemeal, ad hoc manner are also an easy target for analytically minded children of the enlightenment, allergic to seemingly unreliable, or vague methodologies. The relationship between these practices and causality, linear thinking, and time is not the same and not valued in the same way as in scientific inquiry.

With these tensions in mind, I recall a recent opportunity to reflect on the marked difference between a spiritual perspective versus a more traditionally modern, Western approach. A few months ago, I attended several group coaching sessions. I was asked to analyze my life in terms of eight concepts and to depict the results using a wheel. It seemed a useful practice but as it turned out, it’s utility was mostly as prelude for a session of Monk Mojo with Ultracultural Others. There we discussed the Taoist Bagua, eight interrelated concepts seen as the fundamental principles of realityThe Bagua concepts can be used as a spatial map, this mapping, elaborate in the practice of Feng Shui, guides the strategic use of material objects in best accordance with spiritual and energetic principles. In Monk Mojo however, we used them as a lens for daily practices.

Interestingly, the coaching concepts were similar to those of the Bagua, calling to mind the same kinds of activity and accomplishment, making the differences, however, profound and effectively quite disparate.

The coaching language and assessment are situated around the ideas of goals, desired changes, and achievement. In this way, it has a linear relationship to time and to causality. The Bagua concepts, by contrast, speak to peace and presence. Coaching language encourages development and change-making and in these ways engages with power, which I would contrast with peace. These are fundamentally different modes of operating. I would characterize the Bagua’s anti-linear relationship to time as what defines it as a feminine modality. It’s grounding nature in this regard seduces one back into the flow, calling one away from sanitized versions like coaching, whose purported efficacy and measurable outcomes shellac life with a corporate gloss. 

There are consequential differences between the approaches. In order to practice and learn the concepts of the Bagua, I hybridized the wheel visualization I’d learned from the coaching sessions with the Bagua concepts.

The category called “personal finance” from the coaching concepts was now replaced with the words ‘abundance,’ ‘constant,’ ‘gentle and penetrating.’ I realized that in the course of the day taking care of my baby, cleaning our home, cooking, making the bed, and shopping for food were just some of the activities that contributed to the true abundance in which we abide. A sense of peace and home, no longer an abstraction in a mutual fund. Replacing “spiritual awareness” with “stillness” and “meditation” removed the area from generalization. Pondering the simultaneously concrete and poetic Bagua words allowed me to return to myself rather than engaging any number of red herring schemes muddying the waters or delaying the holistic engagement requisite for the task. Even the notion of ‘development’ belies a capitalist-infused notion of productivity and an adherence to causality that damages the human ability for presence. Suddenly, through this slight shift in perspective, calling my mother, celebrating holidays, recounting family stories, creating photo albums, and wearing my grandmother’s jewelry became ways of connecting to ancestors. Of honoring connection to those before and after. Finally, my career and profession were transformed into a “way of life” expressing itself with the grace implicit in “go with the flow.” The nagging anxiety provoked by the analogous coaching concepts was replaced with a sense of faith and openness.

Finally, when I started practicing according to the Bagua concepts, the concept of “fun and enjoyment” turned into “Children, Creativity, and Joy.” “Fun and enjoyment” in the coaching language read to me as ‘entertainment’ or ‘diversion.’ They seemed cheap, consumer items and my ranking was low, but so were they on my internal list of priorities. This unsettled me as I considered the interconnectedness of the concepts. I worried about the effect of neglect on this area of my life if it bled into the other areas. The shift in language had a twofold effect: I realized I had a great deal of this energy in my life, which I could now feed through this new awareness. Secondly, with the awareness came a great sense of gratitude which fed the joy and creativity.

Each section of the wheel allows for personal and idiosyncratic self-assessment. For example, I once heard a nun say that she never gave a student an ‘A’ because those were reserved for God. While that seems problematic, I found my evaluations reflective of similar thinking: there would always be room to grow, room for the unknown. I prefer to imagine a state of becoming, of flux, implicit in the quantification, as if a scale from one to ten could in fact admit infinitude. Some numbers hold within them an innate pessimism and some are more optimistic. For example, the understanding that meditation is an activity of “stillness, wisdom, and inner knowledge” allowed me to evaluate myself a low 4, while knowing that I would create more time each day for my meditation practice. In that way, the number contains an optimism that “fame” on the other hand does not possess. The 2 evaluation in the “fame” category reflects a lack of clarity and no strong sense of actionable steps, hence a pessimistic attitude. Finally, the wheel depicts the interconnection of these concepts and with that comes the idea that each one can be broached indirectly or directly.

Now, each day, I make note of what I do to tend each concept, each energy. At first, I did it to generate an awareness of the structure of my activities, beyond the simple numerical assessment. Now, I can use it as a guide. I recognize my moods fluctuating in direct correspondence to how well each energy is nurtured and by keeping track, it is easy to see where I might focus to rebalance. Finally, keeping track of my activities is a powerful tool for both creativity and gratitude.

Yes, gratitude. I stop to reiterate the feeling because it is this and other signposts of the Bagua perspective that elevate and transform the bastardized ethos of the coaching perspective. The spiritual shift in language embodied in the Bagua allowed me to realize my presence in my own life.

Secure the bagua, indeed.

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Mystery Skool

A Mystery Skool Production

by Female Background

At the core of Ultracultural Others there abides a deep respect for mystery.

This respect is a complicated set of gestures, not passive as one might suspect, but instead it requires a gently observational approach. Not the kind of aggressive apprehension that hopes to soon digest and process information as data for an inevitable narrative, structured and solved, as it were. A respect for mystery brings a meditative mode into the cognitive realm, a true interdisciplinary perspective.

“Why do you want to persecute yourself with the question of where all this is coming from and where it is going?“ 

If the focus of Mystery Skool is mystery itself, what are the tools and faculties to cultivate for the mastery and apprehension of such a subject? It would be a mistake to consider solutions, or the pathways leading to those solutions as appropriate subjects of study. After all, once a solution is arrived upon, the mystery is gone. To put a finer point on it, the aim is not to solve mysteries, but rather, to know mystery itself.

“We must accept our reality as vastly as we possibly can; everything, even the unprecedented, must be possible within it. This is in the end the only kind of courage that is required of us: the courage to face the strangest, most unusual, most inexplicable experiences that can meet us. The fact that people have in this sense been cowardly has done infinite harm to life; the experiences … that are so closely related to us, have through our daily defensiveness been so entirely pushed out of life that the senses with which we might have been able to grasp them have atrophied. “

This belies an underlying wisdom, that underpinning any systemic truth is faith and that the substrate of faith is mystery.

I have a dear, old friend. He lives underground, like a mole, and in this way he’s also blind and in this way he’s also a seer. He reveals through manifestation the very necessity of that underpinning, that substrate which he calls his “bases”:

“Where are the primary causes on which I can rest, where are my bases? Where am I going to get them? I exercise thinking, and, consequently, for me every primary cause immediately drags with it yet another, still more primary one, and so on ad infinitum. Such is precisely the essence of all consciousness and thought.” 

Should the invocation of the many disciplines protected and disseminated under the Ultracultural aegis (divination, goddess culture, yoga, hip hop, shamanism, social justice, and art, to name just a few) cause one to balk, consider the practice of open awareness meditation. One practices opening the mind to a panoramic awareness without a specific focus, developing the capacity to be present with whatever arises, the mind as a river with objects floating by.

“But the fear of the inexplicable has not only impoverished the reality of the individual; it has also narrowed the relationship between one human being and another, which has as it were been lifted out of the riverbed of infinite possibilities and set down in a fallow place on the bank, where nothing happens.” 

While the capacity to observe whatever arises is akin to living with mystery, it also allows the mind to impact lightly upon its object and reciprocally so. Instead of “lifting” things out of the riverbed, let the paranoid flotsam whispering dilettantism, or worse, appropriation, pass by. Acknowledge it without the imposition of structure or narrative that would place those notions above any other. Intellectual paranoia paradoxically causes self-editing before there is anything there to edit.

“In my soul I have never been a coward, though I constantly turned coward in reality, but-don’t laugh too quickly, there’s an explanation for that; rest assured, I have an explanation for everything.”

I’m on to the next one
On to the next
I’m on to the next one
On to the next
I’m on to the next one
On to the next
I’m on to the next one
On to the next

“Don’t be too quick to draw conclusions from what happens to you; simply let it happen… One must be so careful with names anyway; it is so often the name of an offense that a life shatters upon, not the nameless and personal action itself, which was perhaps a quite definite necessity of that life and could have been absorbed by it without any trouble.” 

The non-hierarchical is a true signpost of the Other, of Goddess culture, of nature.

It’s like this and like that and like this and uh
It’s like that and like this and like that and uh
It’s like this and like that and like this and uh

While these truths have been written for thousands of years they are simply parable to the body’s inimitable wisdom, or else we should have successfully communicated them to one another long ago.

Repetition of the word has always been about the body.

It’s like this and like that and like this and uh
It’s like that and like this and like that and uh
It’s like this and like that and like this and uh

Tigress

A Mystery Skool Production

by Female Background aka Gabriella D’Italia

Female Background (with images from Jessie Mott, Evelyn Dragan, & Miroco Machiko)

I moved through the forest and at the other end of the trees, where things began to thin out a bit, sat the piano. I knew I would have to deliver the song, in fact he’d started to play it without us, using the sheet music we’d given him and I felt guilty that although I’d written the music, I couldn’t remember it without reading what I’d written down. The sheet music was gorgeously expressed, embellished with golden flourishes: musical instruments, branches, and verdant leaves. I desperately wanted not to sing. I approached the piano and you were ahead of me, more eager to perform. We joined in, you loudly and eager. I lagged behind, in a hopelessly Sisyphean effort trying to conceal my voice with my song.  I stayed just at the edge of the dense forest, not coming out completely. I knew that the shame was located in my throat, but as it is invisible, most people don’t quite believe it’s there. If I were making it up it would be humiliating enough, but the true horror was the prevailing notion that the invisible doesn’t exist at all.

A guide was further down a path that emerged from the forest as the trees began to thin. He instructed us on tending a small section of plants and trees that surrounded this part of the path. He made sure to point out a couple of trees that he alone would take care of, as he put it. He repeatedly ran his hand down some of the smaller and more supple branches while warning us from them, “They have venereal disease.”

Female Background (with images from Evelyn Dragan, Miroco Machiko)

The lions and bears were living side by side. They were not in the forest, but outside of the large, modern house in the suburbs. The one with the large glass windows.

Hunting Manual for Detectives, Monks, and Others

A Mystery Skool Production

by Female Background aka Gabriella D’Italia

Let this serve as both a Hunting Manual for Detectives, Monks, and Others as well as a Manual for the creation of the Manual. It will unfold in six parts for contemplation and practice.

  1. Post Truth Invocation
  2. Definitions
  3. Common Notions
  4. Preparation and Conditions
  5. Propositions
  6. Reporting

Post Truth Invocation of Reality:

He was wearing a purple turtleneck sweater, his favorite burgundy slacks and sensible black walking shoes. He has a full head of dark, disheveled hair, and his vigorously overgrown eyebrows sweep several unsettling centimeters up beyond the rim of his round spectacles, like a nun’s cornette. “Even this notion of a common world we didn’t have to articulate, because it was obvious,” he continued. “Now we have people who no longer share the idea that there is a common world. And that of course changes everything.”

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Head by Female Background

Definitions:

Hunting: A continuous attempt by an automatically controlled system to find a desired equilibrium condition.

Monk: One who dedicates her life to serving all other living beings, or who leaves society and lives her life in prayer and contemplation.

Detective: One who collects information and through an alchemy of linear time and cultural mandates, transforms them into clues. She talks to witnesses and informants, collects physical evidence, or searches records. She examines and evaluates her clues to uncover identity and whereabouts.

Other: Extra. Background.

 

 

tigerpattern

Animals, Patterns, & Piles by Female Background (Mask Image by Jessie Mott)

Common Notions:

Exact repetition is impossible but we understand it none-the-less.

You can’t see it unless you’ve seen it before.

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Bloodstone Moon by Female Background

Preparation and Conditions:

Gather 3-12 participants, optimally 9.

Choose an auspicious night for a Hunter’s Training Ceremony which will result in the production of the Hunting Manual for Detectives, Monks, and Others. The Hunter’s Moon, also known as the Blood Moon, creates an auspicious space for this practice.  In preparing for winter, this particular full moon signifies a time when the needs of the collective are more important than the needs of individuals. People  come together for survival; both physical and spiritual. A full moon marks a time when intuitive abilities are at their peak, as are feelings and emotions. These abilities heighten communication within the pack of hunters. Collective purpose channels energy.

Select a Bloodstone and charge it with the thought, SURVIVAL, for a minimum of 3 nights prior to the Training Ceremony. Bloodstone is used traditionally to enhance intuitive capacity and is unique in its ability to balance that sense of receptivity with being grounded. This grounding relates to balancing the root chakra, when balanced this activates a secure foundation through basic elements of shelter, food, and sex. The charging of the stone can be achieved by holding it and meditating on the chosen concept. Then, write the concept word, survival, on a piece of paper and wrap the stone. Place the wrapped stone on a windowsill until the time of the training ceremony.

Provide two sheets of paper for each participant, one for notes and one for drawing. Provide a drawing implement per participant.

Memorize the two statements to be given for translation during the ceremony:

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

The fur cat howls at the daylight.

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You Be Me by Female Background

Propositions:

1. Invite participants to gather, seated, in a circle on the floor.

2. Lead a three part meditation. Each part lasts from 1 or 3 minutes for a total of 3 or 9 minutes of meditation.

i. Concentrative meditation: focus on the breath for 1 or 3 minutes.

ii. Mindfulness meditation: move from awareness of the breath to awareness of the body for 1 or 3 minutes.

iii. Open awareness meditation: move from an awareness of the body to an awareness of the room and the other participants. Practice for 1 or 3 minutes.

3. Lead a two part verbal translation exercise. Repeating each exercise 9 times.

i. In part one, speak aloud to the person on your left: “The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.” (Excerpt from Plate 9 of William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.)

image

That participant repeats the line to the person on her left as faithfully as possible, but without interruption even if faithfulness is not achieved. This process continues around the circle 9 times ending with the person to your right. Record the final, resultant iteration.

ii. In part two of the verbal translation exercise, whisper to the person on your left: The fur cat howls at daylight.

That participant whispers what she hears to the person on her left and so on until the process completes the circle 9 times, ending with the person to your right. Record the resultant iteration.

4. Unwrap the charged bloodstone and hold it while contemplating the charge: survival. When ready, hand it to the participant on the left. Each participant will hold the bloodstone until she comes to an intuition, be it sound, image, or concept. At that point, she will pass the bloodstone to her left until each participant has held the stone. Each participant will record the intuition, silently writing. Collect writing.

5. Finally, each participant has been given an identical sheet of paper and a drawing implement. (Mark one sheet of paper with a small hole in the upper right hand corner.) Each participant will draw for 1 minute and then pass the paper to her left. Each participant will draw for another minute on the drawing now in her possession. This process continues until one cycle is completed. This is indicated when the paper with the hole returns to it’s original scribe. This process can be repeated 1, 3, 6, or 9 times, the images becoming successively more detailed. Collect all drawings.

Reporting:

The reporting process for the practice results in the compilation of information into the Hunting Manual for Detectives, Monks, and Others.

Include the six sections from these instructions. Start with a Post Truth Invocation of Reality of your choosing and follow with the next successive categories as given: Definitions, Common Notions, Preparation and Conditions, Propositions, and Reporting

Then include the statement:

“The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.” Follow it with the resultant final iteration from the first part of proposition 1.

Then include the statement: “The fur cat howls at daylight.” Follow it with the resultant final iteration from the second part of proposition 1.

Include each participant’s Bloodstone intuition.

Include all drawings.

Sign with peace.

The Hunting Manual for Detectives, Monks, and Others is now complete.

QEF

Peace be with you.