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December 2020

Confusing the story with the frame

Winter's specter casts a long shadow

Mind floating in matter

Like a magic trick

Dancing in the moonlight

Never far from the source

Fleeting equivalence

Never knowing
what will appear
each day


First light

Adrift, yes
but not yet
lost at sea

Many candles, one light

Everyone's secret is the same

Moving through the day
noticing the presence
of stuff
even outer space
is never without

I feel like my mind is meandering toward a story...

Through an open window, sky darkening, snowstorm gathering, noting waves of anxiety passing by, I let my pencil go walking, then add colors, not separate from the source of the drawing.

The thoughts, emotions, and vedanā now converging in my mind compete to influence my word choices because, approaching like a storm, a story seems imminent! My last story ended on the 2011 winter solstice. I wonder if a new story will begin on the winter solstice nine years later?

What magic can be done correctly without knowledge of the planetary hours?

As the story begins,
not knowing
where it will take us,
wisdom calls on me
to offer a mantra
for blessing the energy
of two entities,
such as teacher and student,
storyteller and listener,
or even seeker and knowledge,
about to journey together:

May the source of creativity protect us
May it nourish us both
Let us make art together
As brilliant as the sun
With no conflict between us
Creating peace


A story is not a single thread but a matrix of threads woven into a fabric, not one starting point, no primary direction, only words criss crossing a terrain of interlocked thoughts, enmeshed psyches, and interchanging energies; and telling a story is not unraveling but helping to see the whole cloth.

It doesn’t matter where I begin but that I start, not the direction I take but that I’m moving, not ending the tale but revealing the conditions that give rise to the telling.

This is a story about freedom: freedom as a beacon of choice, freedom from fear, creative freedom, artistic freedom, freedom of belief, habit, and gratification, freedom to become congruent with destiny, directives, and deep needs, freedom to find our true nature.

Already lots of threads to travel. Let the journey begin…

"Awakened presence?" she banters, knowing he can't explain, but enjoying turning the tables, "If our true selves are the same, why are we so different?"

Drawing breath as his lips flatten, joy moving inward, expression softening, happy because having her in the discussion was all he hoped for, grateful for her awakened presence, looking into her eyes he offers, "I can only see it when I’m sitting quietly, no words for it, and yet..."

She laughs and throws her scarf around his neck trying to get as close as possible. Her insight goes much further than his. Secretly desiring to remove his ignorance, a process of indefinite duration, she relaxes into the moment and sits with him, waiting for resonance.

Another breath, full eye contact, she is his singular object of attention.

"You must choose," she lets him know as she starts gathering the blue silk scarves that mask a globe. Giving a slight nod of recognition tinged with futility, he senses the pressure to return to his role as a bodhisattva but argues, "You can see all possibilities and outcomes, all events, all time. Why should I reenter?"

She caresses his cheek, transmitting serenity, telling him "My joy is in your decision, watching the coalescence of a moment of choice. Even in your current form something lingers that can choose. What essence is so precious that clinging to it requires another journey?"

His longing to stay with her prevents him from answering.


"A precious human birth? You want to spend all your karma points so readily?" leaning forward she teases his senses now that the decision is made, "And I suppose you want Earth too?" The joy is sharp - resonating with her happiness and his travel anxiety.

We see his hand pointing to the globe and the two of them in discussion. The lovers, so deeply joined and so soon parted, share an embrace. Opening her lips for a final kiss, he sees a void, infinite in depth, filled with swiftly evolving galaxies.

Gently lifted and inserted into the fabric at the perfect moment, his existence assimilates like a drop of pigment in a jar of water.


Connecting a mind to a sensory apparatus, initiating the flow of feeling, synthesizing a world picture, discerning states of matter, awareness of gravity, hunger, thirst, pain, temperature...coming into being is a bitch.

He makes it to Earth all right but it turns out he doesn't have enough points to become a human after all.

Pond water, plant stalks, rapid maturity - emerging as an ephemeral mayfly.


He begins life on Earth caught in a series of seemingly endless days marked with birth, death, and rebirth. Mayflies are aquatic insects belonging to the order Ephemeroptera. The Mayfly eggs release aquatic nymphs that live in water for several years. The underwater nymph ready to be reborn, after molting dozens of times, empties their guts and, filling their belly with air, floats to the surface triggering the release of wings. Only at this transition, the first adult step, does anything more than pure survival filter through his new brain. His first taste of consciousness in the world, the spark of self-awareness, the first time he is awake and knows that he is awake, is on the surface of a pond, no longer a swimmer and not yet ready to fly, alone at his most vulnerable. At this moment he needs more than instinct. This moment requires imagination. So he rests on the water, trying to visualize what has happened, what this world offers, and what is required of him, and most times, if he's lucky, he takes wing.

(Author's note about the entity born on Earth as a mayfly. This entity, this character whose story on Earth we are following, this bundle of conscious energy is named 'W' - a gender nonspecific title that refers to the wings that help guide flight and to whirlpool, an emergent stable phenomenon within fluid flow.)

W wakes up breathing hard on the surface of a pond trying to dry a pair of wings, feeling anxious about shelter, and trying hard to remember something just out of memory's reach. During a lifetime measured in minutes and hours, W can expect to molt, mature, mate, and die. W does not have much time to develop a contemplative practice and receives no teachings. Immediate survival needs require focus. Instincts are strong for swarming in groups. Self-reflection, when it happens, only lasts for a few precious seconds.


As a mayfly in the pond for the very first time, W surfaces directly into the beak of a waiting bird who was already busy feeding on the swarm. Awake for a few seconds and then suddenly gone. The next time a fish grabs the rising imago before breaking the surface. All input from that cycle is blurry. Flying into the swarm, mating, and successfully laying eggs gets rewarded by death five hours later. The full cycle lasts long enough to produce a panoply of sense impressions, some rudimentary emotions, and one moment of aware bliss.

Once W was resting next to a log, wings drying, strength building, preparing to soar into the swarm and was yanked away by a frog's tongue. Dissolving slowly in the frog's digestive juice there was a moment of realization that flow had been interrupted. Surrendering to the inevitable, W glimpses a connection with a larger source. Once W was swarming above the pond and out of the thousands of mayflies in the swarm kept colliding with the same individual, no matter what flight path, finally destroying both. As W fell from the sky, the absurdity of the situation triggered real laughter, rising joy gave way to a feeling of great peace. The stories are endless and each one ends the same.

W's moments on Earth were too short and too focused on survival to be able to reach the kind of contemplative depth that might have led to liberation in a single lifetime, yet over many lifetimes those moments of clarity somehow began to accumulate.


W is a whirlpool, a stable node, an ephemeral feature, emerging inseparably, within flow. Yes, W is found within the body of a mayfly sometimes, too. What is this coherence that wants to assert itself, to know itself?

This round and round cycle of mayfly birth and death seen from afar looks like a vortex, a spiral pattern appearing in spacetime. To W the rhythm of living and being reborn feels like sleep and wake. W tries to fly, follows instincts, becomes exhausted, and sees the sun set against a blue sky in a moment of self-reflection only to dreamlessly sleep and wake again in the pond.

The mayfly body decays but the awareness, the knowing, seems to cycle back into another mayfly, and another, and another. What is holding W together through these transitions? Or maybe ask, what is the nature of the flow that keeps mistaking itself for W?


Even the mightiest waves relinquish power after reaching the shore, their water returning to the ocean. When W's life as a mayfly is over, the same return takes place - true nature returns to a vast ocean. W's mayfly mind, filled with experiences and memories, does not stay intact, ready to be inserted again into a new insect body. Awareness is present in a mayfly because of flow and only an eddy in that flow appears to keep W together through many lives.

After 33,000 cycles, bug life upon bug life, sitting in the vortex, the mayfly mind has an insight, ignorance dissipates for a moment like clouds clearing, and W sees the cycle for the first time, all the births and deaths spinning through time, and how the lives are connected because they arise from the same intelligent awareness.

W tacitly understands that what remains after death is what illuminates life, that which allows us to think and know ourselves when we are alive. As W rests, clinging to a piece of pond grass, wings drying in the sun, cool breeze blowing, feeling comfortable in an insect exoskeleton, there is such clarity, such a release, that a mayfly laugh lets loose, a cry, a shout, and W soars free into the blue sky.

The next time W wakes up he is wearing a human body.


Caught in folds of consciousness, W sleeps a dreamless sleep.

Whirlpools that arise naturally in flow are the cause of W's ceaseless return to material form. This time, however, insight has added gravity to W's position. This round, W has depth.

Able to use that weight to dip below the buffeting waves on the surface, when he finally wakes up, W will find more stability, longer cycles, a chance for more self-knowledge. Not without cost, W will be called upon to contribute, to give back to the flow that sustains. Human life awaits W, a fortunate return with opportunities to resonate on many levels.


Muffled sounds, new patterns, uncertain dreams, and discombobulated flow in the moments just before birth.