Dwelling in the Mystery
In the early-morning dream, just before that one bird starts to obnoxiously wake everyone up, I stand at a crossroads. The road behind me is worn and known, familiar. My origin story, what has been.
There is the road in front of me. A clear and pleasant path, its momentum beckoning.
To my right is a pivot, a sharp ninety-degree unknown, still adjacent. Same on the left, slightly less clear, but a path nonetheless.
This crossroads is suspicious. For one, it is too mathematical to be organic.
The classic intersection design of four right angles is tidy, manmade.
There exists, in magical lore, the binary-smashing 'third path.'
In the stories, when magical beings find themselves at the crossroads, there is always a bargain to be struck, an offering to be made, or a ritual to perform, before the character can move forward, assured they are on the right path.
But, as my psychic friend Verone says, you are always on your path. No matter which way you turn at any juncture, it is your path.
When I closed my company last winter, I realized I had no idea what came next, and taking spacious time to find out made sense.
In my dream, I want to stay right here at the crossroads, waiting. Not taking any of the available options, at least not yet.
Because, after all, the road less traveled is still traveled.
What would it be like to stop doing, and just be in the mystery for a while? To not travel on any road? To stay still, holy pause? Honestly, at the time I had no idea how.
Apart from the fact that we are dwelling in the mystery all the time, it is a novel concept to choose not knowing and ambiguity.
Pema Chodron writes, "As human beings, we share a tendency to scramble for certainty whenever we realize everything around is in flux. In difficult times the stress of trying to find solid ground, something predictable and safe to stand on, seems to intensify. But in truth, the very nature of our existence is forever in flux. Everything keeps changing, whether we are aware of it or not…we seem doomed to suffer simply because we have a deep-seated fear of how things really are. Our attempts to find lasting pleasure, lasting security, are at odds with the fact that we're part of a dynamic system in which everything and everyone is in process…whether we're conscious of it or not, the ground is always shifting. Nothing lasts, including us."
Uncertainty is the only ground we've got, but so rarely can we feel that truth.
I'm getting to the point where I prefer acknowledging that I don't know; I try to trust that the job of a mystic is to hang out in the mystery.
Those signs people have in their yard in my liberal neighborhood: "In this house, we believe science is real, love is love, women exist, yadda yadda."
It's not the sentiments that annoy me, but the assumption that there can be a statement made that is true 100% of the time.
This is not dwelling in the mystery.
Dwelling in the mystery ends where signs in the yard begin.
This morning I perused my neighborhood, sniffing flowers and observing how light and different surfaces interact. The mystery is present in a soft, unfocused gaze.
Why dwell in mystery?
Because the truth is you already are, every day, and admitting it is romantic.
When a soft whisper emits your lips, you romance yourself: "I don't know. How will this work out??? I don't know! I have to trust that it will."
Picking up the scent of mystery, you are a bloodhound sniffing out a lead in the butterscotch sunlight; "Where? There? Yes! Go!" The magic of the everyday world.
You dwell in mystery because if you know the end, reading the story is boring.
A ritual to give yourself to mystery
Smell your rose, and sip the water. Absorb the coolness of the water with the sunshine of the rose, meeting your body. Now repeat after me, "I dwell in mystery because mystery is all there is."
Feel for the velvet abyss, and let go, just a little.
Congratulations. You are now officially a mystery dweller.
Broken Dreams as a guide
Solid in our certainty, we dismiss mystery as piddle. As folly. As if because we don't yet know the how of something, it will never be.
We say, "Oh, that's not feeling like the thing right now." As if because we are away from our deep longings, they are somehow less potent.
I've seen it again and again, in my friends, in myself.
The things we love more than anything, making art, working for trans kids, writing poetry, creating spaces of beauty and meaning aka interior design, being outside with animals… we say, "Oh, that's not the thing right now."
Maybe it will make an appearance again on the longing list in the future.
What have you given up on in some deep underlayer?
That's the signpost guiding you home to mystery!
Take a meander down the boulevard of broken dreams without judgment. Really.
Tell your critic to take a breather, STFU. Get in it for the mystery.
Do whatcha wanna do
There is a new burgeoning skill: feeling for what is right, right now.
This happens on such a subtle level.
The more I'm paying attention and asking my inner mystery, "Yes? This? Now?" the better things are going.
What if we all gave ourselves to mystery and only did exactly what we wanted, even for one day? One moment?
I don't want to make compromises anymore.
All I want to do is what I want to do, what feels right, right now.
I don't want to push too hard. I want to arrive and to arrive, I need to not push.
I need to not besiege my heart with "choosing a path."
I need to do what I want to do, right now.
This is aaneasy path home to mystery.
Interrupt & Disrupt
Now listen to me.
You've got to get in front of those wired and habitual thought patterns.
You've got to disrupt the normal, the regular, if you want to feel the holy mystery you dwell within.
How to disrupt?
There are thousands of ways. Pick one each day.
Places worlds meet: the ocean and the shore. The forest and the city. The field and the wall. The garden and the street. The river and the bank.
You, too, can feel your liminal nature in the edge worlds:
Put your body in liminal spaces where the feeling of mystery is the only item on the to-do list.
The mystery eats patience for breakfast, nom nom.
When dwelling in mystery, you have to learn, as screenwriters and improv actors know, to kill your darling.
Your baby. Allow that brilliant idea to die, and lean into what emerges from the ashes.
Where you start is not where you end.
You must wait, trusting that creativity will not abandon you if you wait until the truth emerges from your body, not your brain. Wait and wait.
Write down all the ideas that come as you stand at the crossroads.
You can honor and acknowledge them without needing to pursue each one.
They will find a better home if you don't pick them up right now. They will still be there later if you need them.
The crossroads is an altar to the unknown and a temple of potentiality. All things are possible if you stop asking yourself, "But how??"
There is a particular feeling of allowing possibility.
Some part of you says, "That can never be me."
But the part of you that dwells in mystery answers, "Yes, here at the crossroads, we make space for all possible futures, regardless of how implausible they may seem."
Do you want to include "rockstar" on your list of possible careers? Do it.
Honor the impulse that can track that reality in whatever parallel universe it exists.
I'm serious. Write that shit down. All of it. Send me a picture of your in-progress hot mess!
It's surprising and scary, not knowing. Thank holy fuck!
Another lesson of the crossroads is to be available for surprise (thanks Joseph Kramer, for instilling this!)
When you wait, listen, feel, don't act, don't know, and don't try to know, something will eventually happen.
And what happens will be an expression of the mystery and will make perfect sense at the same time.
One day, after you've dwelt in the unknown for some undetermined amount of time, you will find yourself doing the thing.
You are already doing it; it is so simple.
Maybe there is a big revelation, but maybe there it is, quiet as a sigh.
When you are ready to dwell in mystery, decide for what initial period you will make no decisions.
Follow no paths as you wait for more to appear. 1 day? 1 month? Half a year?
This is your time to revel, celebrate, and not have to know a damn thing except what you want to eat right now or if you have to pee.
The mystery is a scary place to admit that you are dwelling.
Remember, you are already there.
This is just a practice of acknowledging and embracing mystery as your true home.
This is your chance to get off the hook of knowing, of having to take the next logical step on that path. Your crossroads resembles a jellyfish or medusa, with so many tentacles of possibility and no censor to say, "No, that doesn't make sense. You can't do that."
What helps in the moments of mystery-terror is to remember this is an experiment in letting go of control.
You have chosen to allow your heart-star to guide and express without your conscious mind driving.
You surrender knowing to watch knowing emerge, perfect and right.
What's under mystery's blanket?I used to play a game with my students.
I would place many things under a blanket: strawberries, essential pine oil, feathers, a kalimba, shells and beautiful stones, fur, chocolate, and rattles.
They did not know what was beneath the blanket, so I would tease them, lift a tiny corner, and put it back down.
Pretend I was going to reveal the whole thing and fake them out.
They were instructed to sit without touching once I finally unveiled the lush diorama below.
Take it in, allow desire to build until it was unbearable, and then pay exquisite attention as they allowed themselves to have the item that had inflamed their longing.
I did this exercise dozens of times. Without fail, my students would experience their embodied longing in new and profound ways, getting a sense of what the sensation of want feels like.
Dwelling in the mystery is a capacity you build.
To feel the mysterious, sacred world and be in vast potential is a muscle. The first few times you work it, expect shaky tremors.
From the get-go, your sense of wonder was damned and condemned: Don't use so much glue. Stop touching that tulip. Hurry up, don't dawdle!
I'm sorry that happened to both of us, and now it's time to reclaim our awe.
Time to wake up wonder.
Here's the last thought for those who want to dwell in mystery (that I learned from the whisper of a sand dollar thrown from the Pacific Ocean)If you want magick, you gotta leave space for magick.
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