A powerful revelation

9/21/21

This post is a bit of a departure from my other “trip posts” so far. I feel inclined to preface it somehow. Like… I don’t know if this will resonate with everyone. It may not be your cup of tea. Also, it doesn’t feel fully formed. I could wait until a later time to share it; maybe I could “polish” it more between now and then, or maybe I would have subsequent experiences that would render the story more complete, or well-rounded, or something.

But I’m choosing to share it now, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned on this trip so far, it’s that each day is full to bursting with experiences of all different kinds. I fear that if I waited, this one I’m writing about would end up getting relegated to the dustbin of “unfinished thoughts” in the back of my mind. And I feel drawn to share it with others.

So, here goes.

Yesterday at 11:40 am, on the bus from Klamath Falls to Medford, I received a text message from an unfamiliar number with a greater-Seattle area code:

“Hi, Maren. Are you interested in selling the property over there on [the street where my condo is] in Portland? This is Century21 Northwest.”

Ugh. Kinda invasive. How did they get my number? This real estate market is getting out of hand. Presumably this person was hoping I would sell to an investor.

My reply was short and unequivocal: “No”.

I trusted that would be the end of it.

An hour later, at 12:44 pm, I was enjoying my lunch in Medford before heading out on my bike, when another text arrived:

“Maren, if you were to get an offer on this property still at this point, would you still be willing to take it?”

Uh, what?

First of all, did I stutter? “No” is pretty clear, right? Second, what does that text even mean? “Still be willing to take [an offer]”?

I replied, “I am not interested in selling.”

Done and done, right?

I finished up my meal, and set a course for Williams. As you may recall from yesterday’s post, I soon found myself scaling a challenging hill. I had just enjoyed my “plum break” on the side of the road, and was girding myself for more climbing in the hot sun, when I pulled over for another rest.

Do you know what I saw?

This text:

“We have a pipeline of buyers who are prequalified and are registered in this area. What’s the best time to call, Maren?”

I was already out of breath and cursing the hill. When I saw this, my blood boiled.

Who is this guy? Who behaves like this? How is this acceptable in any possible universe? (Talk about the antithesis of enthusiastic consent.)

I had been polite. I had been firm. No matter.

Filled with rage at this violation of my clearly stated boundaries (as well as any reasonable person’s standard of human decency) I typed back “FUCK YOU” and hit send. I waited a few seconds to make sure it had sent, and then blocked the number.

Fueled by adrenaline, I hopped back on the bike to finish scaling the hill. As I pedaled, I marinated in a chemical dump of emotions and thoughts.

First, catharsis: I’m generally so mild-mannered and polite that I rarely talk back to anyone, let alone curse them out. It felt good!! (I mean, seriously, fuck that dude, right??)

Then a slight fear: What if that angered or activated him? He’s obviously not averse to predatory behavior. I’m sure it’s not the first time he’s received a response like that (it probably happens multiple times a day) but what if he thought it was funny that I got so upset, and decided to toy with me in some way, texting me from a different number, or finding some other way to harass me? Unlikely, I hoped, but I didn’t like thinking about it. If I had simply blocked the number without “outbursting” first, I wouldn’t have had to worry about that. (Although I did think the catharsis of responding the way I did was worth something, on its own merits.)

Setting aside the fear, I started to think about the situation on a larger, deeper scale. I thought about, and felt into, the energetic dynamics of the situation. Of boundary violations. Of “injuries” of any kind, to me or anyone else. Of unwanted energies coming toward us, as individual beings.

It happens. To all of us. What do we do with the unwanted energies?

The question reminded me of another recent time of philosophical pondering, on one of my “practice rides” for this trip, a month or so ago.

On that ride, I had also recently been the recipient of unwanted, toxic energy directed at me. It was bothering me, and as I pedaled my own energy through the miles of natural beauty, I arrived at what felt like some important wisdom. A framework within which to understand such dynamics.

What I thought of was that there is always energy moving about. (In the world, in the cosmos.) Some of this energy is obviously physical. Some is interpersonal. Both can be understood using similar ways of thinking.

At that time, I thought about some of the eastern philosophies I had first learned about in my high school philosophy class: that some energetic forces are destructive, while others are constructive.

I thought about how human beings—our minds, our emotions, our consciousness—can be seen as vessels for these different kinds of energies. In fact, I could imagine the two kinds of energies as almost (almost!) conscious in themselves. Like when people talk about “evil forces.” I don’t believe in the concepts of good and evil, on a basic level; I subscribe more to Marshall Rosenberg’s idea (though he would have been the first to admit that it was not his original idea) that what most people refer to as “good” or “evil” are simply examples of human beings either getting their human needs met, or not.

But I found myself open to thinking of “destructive energy” as a sort of entity of its own. And I could visualize it circling around human beings and looking for a “weak vessel” to inhabit. For example, someone who has not been able to sufficiently process or heal whatever human traumas they have experienced. (And since that describes all of us, at various times of our lives, that means we can all be the “weak vessel” at various times, allowing destructive behaviors to issue forth from ourselves, such as the text I sent before blocking the number. Different people spend different percentages of their time in such states.) Perhaps we can think of certain destructive energies as needing human hosts in order to carry out their nature.

This led me to think of the physics principle of the conservation of mass-energy. If there is a static amount of energy in the world (setting aside for the moment that matter and energy can swap places in existence at different times, since I don’t think that makes a measurable difference to the phenomenon I’m describing) then destructive energy could theoretically be transmuted into constructive energy, with conscious human help.

I thought first of a simplistic idea: “There are people in the world who operate from destructive energy, and those who operate from constructive energy. I want to be one of the latter.”

But then I thought a bit deeper, realizing how oversimplified that was. For one thing, as I mentioned above, individual people can operate from either kind of energy at different times.

For another thing, seeing my role in life as being one who is engaged in constructive energy didn’t feel quite right to me either. When I thought more about constructive energy, what came to my mind was mostly physical: people growing gardens, plants, trees, and such, or perhaps actively constructing sustainable dwellings or other structures, or even building entire intentional communities. These are the kinds of people I feel drawn toward, and wish to support with my own skills. Especially on this particular bicycle journey: that is the whole point of it!

And… then, what are my skills, and how do they fit within this framework I was beginning to envision?

My skills are those of space-holding, healing, and supporting transformation.

My life’s work is to work with people’s existing sources of energy, to witness and help them to heal from whatever injuries or traumas they have received, and help them to transmute that energy into something constructive, so that they can build something positive, for themselves and/or for the collective.

So. That was my thought process during my August ride. Now back to yesterday’s ride:

What was I to do with this unwanted energy that had just come toward me? What are any of us to do with these energies? They are certainly a renewable resource, because boundary violations and various anger triggers are unavoidable wherever human interactions can be found. Do we just unconsciously spew them back out, fighting back against the apparent “source” like I had just done, or toward others who seem like easy targets? Do we eschew those “spewing” behaviors out of politeness or propriety or fear, and instead simply soak in the toxicity, holding that energy within our own bodies until it harms us psychologically and/or physically?

Surely there must be a better way.

I suddenly thought of a new metaphor: a solar panel.

It collects “general” energy from the sun, and transforms it into photovoltaic electricity, to be used in a more targeted, intentional way.

I found myself in a warm wave of nostalgia with this mental imagery, as I reminisced on my teen years in the late 1980s, discovering the Real Goods catalog and learning that it was possible to live apart from the communal electric grid by using photovoltaics to power 12-volt DC versions of refrigerators, lights, and any number of other electric appliances. What a revelation! Creative, innovative, responsible technology. I remembered the images on those paper catalog pages—back before I had ever heard of the internet—of solar-powered cabins in remote northern California locales.

This in turn led me to warm thoughts of two upcoming visits on this tour: one with a friend in Ukiah, California, where the Real Goods company was founded and remains headquartered. It seemed so exotic to me at the time! But in a few weeks, I will be visiting there myself. The second visit is to another friend who lives in an off-grid cabin in northern California as well, near Mt. Shasta.

Wow.

I thought a bit more about my solar-panel analogy.

What if we could think of all unwanted incoming energy into our personal physical, mental, or emotional space as a resource to take in as “general energy” like sunlight, rather than experiencing it as targeted negative energy? And what if we could visualize storing up this energy into our metaphorical solar battery? Turning that unwanted kinetic energy into desirable potential energy for future, constructive use? (More flashbacks to my high school physics class.)

I liked it. This felt powerful to imagine. I smiled broadly to myself as I glided along, and marveled at what mental worlds are opened up by a bicycle on a beautiful open road.

This is why I’m doing this, isn’t it?

This is my life now.

And… just like that, I rounded a bend. Immediately to my right, my eyes beheld this image.

Wow.

Yeah.

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2 thoughts on “A powerful revelation”

  1. Nice post!
    I don’t personally use the term “negative” energy as a frame … I think more in terms of “difficult” energies — that is to say, energies that come in and cause me pain or discomfort.

    Grief is one. A friend committed suicide recently. That brought some unwanted “difficult” energy to my heart, and it’s still working its way through me. That is, it’s doing something to my heart, some mysterious work. It’s changing me. (I don’t think you’d call this “negative” though it is painful.)

    An intrusive phone solicitor, or any other form of “garbage intrusion” that’s characteristic of the modern world, is another “difficult” energy that I have to field at times, like all of us — it scatters my attention, and if I’m not careful, I will let it trigger me into a lot of irritation, as you did. If I have a conscious intention to transform it, I can practice observing my reactions (as you do in this post) and see where those observations lead me to in thought (as you did). For example, I might look at the assumptions I hold that cause me to react with irritation. One might be, “Damn it, I have a RIGHT not to receive irritating text messages.” But what if I don’t have a right? What if I’ve relinquished that right by virtue of owning a cell? Who says I have ever had such a right?

    One thing about living in America, in a capitalist society, is that from cradle to grave, there is always someone trying to sell you shit. We may not like it, but that’s the way it is.

    I once read a memoir by a guy who visited the old Soviet Union. When he got back to the U.S., it was initially such a relief to him to once again see the superiority of American products, the consumer choices, the better sound equipment and electronics, the freedom to choose from so many experiences and material goods.

    Then he was driving down the freeway and a billboard soft drink ad, featuring the shimmering body of a bikini-clad woman, caught his eye. It arrested whatever his thoughts had been moments previously. And then … he felt a subtle tug in his being, something familiar, something he hadn’t experienced for the weeks he’d been in Soviet Russia. What was that subtle tug, that pull? “Oh yeah. Somebody wants my money.”

    1. Thanks for this thoughtful response, Marc. Yes, there is so much to unpack, on multiple levels of this type of scenario, and our internal responses to it. Consciousness and intention seem to be key.

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