Tenacious Magic ~ Chapter 2
Welcome back to an emergent story about spirituality, the feminine path of wisdom, writing, sexuality, magic, and the synchronicities that knit us together through time...
A Note on Process
Happy Friday! If you’re new to my Substack or missed the posts last week about this emergent story called Tenacious Magic, you can revisit the background here and read Chapter 1 here. Every Friday I will post a new chapter and invite comments, questions, and opinions. I will then build those comments into the story.
Last week I had a comment from Charlie who offered a curiosity about what kind of relationship history I had and what I might have been seeking when I met H. He wrote:
what i'm interested in has to do with the prior history (before 2009) you brought with you around this dimension: how sexuality, romantic desire, and a seeking of perhaps a connection that might be completely orthogonal to those things, but likely far deeper than what most modern humans are willing to admit we want…my invitation would be to try to figure out where you were in 2009 with respect to seeking that "depth" (as my intuition tells me that is key here!), and a desire…to "bond at the level of souls" (i.e. in a way that goes beyond what most ever attain) with a person or persons who might have been spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, constitutionally, and/or behaviorally "compatible" with you.
Thank you for the invitation, Charlie! I think your intuition is right. I won’t get into it today, but will do next week in Chapter 3.
Thank you for reading and be sure to let me know what you’re taking away and what you want from the story and characters—in the comments for now.
Have a beautiful weekend.
Tenacious Magic ~ Chapter 2
“We live in a culture that believes magic does not exist. And because of that, we’re highly susceptible to spells.” —Dr. John Churchill
New York City, 2009
A few days later I received an email from H. The subject line read, “Invitation to tea.”
“A friend forwarded me what you wrote on your blog about my talk. It is rare for someone to capture the meaning of my ideas so well. I am in need of a writer. Would you like to meet for tea? Pick a place downtown.”
I chose a small café in Soho close to our initial meeting. The morning of the appointment, I was delayed unaccountably at every step. As I hustled through the underground maze of the subway, my panic mounted and time seemed to accelerate. It was a typical weekday morning clusterfuck, but it was also something unusual.
I finally exited the subway station on Prince Street, pushing past tourists, and running the last couple of blocks. I slowed to catch my breath as I approached the windows of the café.
I spotted him sitting alone in the midst of the chaos. He was calm and alert, just as I remembered. I sat my things in a chair, hurriedly removing layers of winter clothing. As I did so, I felt those watching eyes and this time, an amused smile. It almost made me angry…like he’d done it on purpose—like he’d orchestrated every obstacle as a test for my resilience. I could see I’d failed, but maybe I showed promise? He was still here.
We ordered a tea for me and talked briefly before he got to the point. He wanted to propose an exchange. He would teach me self mastery and I would help him with writing and marketing his business. No money would change hands. This was good news for me because I couldn’t afford his fees. Every fiber of my being was moving towards the door he seemed to be opening. I nodded enthusiastically as if I had a choice. I wasn’t entirely sure what I agreeing to or why. Destiny is hard to deny, but then…so are shadow drives.
He allowed me a minute of inner celebration and then held up his hand and raised an eyebrow, “Now, there are strict conditions. Are you ready?” I nodded. He counted on his fingers as he enunciated them; watching to make sure each one landed:
“No cursing…no complaining…no gossiping…and for you, no worrying. I mean it. If we are going to work together I don’t want any worrying,” He looked at me pointedly. I felt embarrassed and almost protested, but immediately thought better of it. I nodded.
We’d begin with a session a week from Monday at his office in Midtown. We left the busy restaurant and I found myself trembling on Broadway again. I leaned in to kiss his cheek, a common social gesture in New York in those days. He backed away gracefully and presented his hand. I took it awkwardly and we shook.
As I exited the subway at Lexington and 63rd that Monday morning in March, I felt like a tourist in my own city. It was a part of town I rarely had occasion to visit…the Upper East Side was known for being affluent, stuffy, snobbish, staid…very different from the free-spirited territory I roamed downtown and in Brooklyn. My heart pounded as I raced westward towards Madison Avenue—not because I was late this time, but because I was excited.
I hesitated for a minute when I reached the corner at 67th and Madison. I registered the feeling again that I was being watched. Looking up at the tall, brick building I was about to enter, I wondered if he was somewhere up there aware of my arrival. How could I feel it? I steadied myself, crossed the street, passed under an awning and through some ornate doors into the lobby. The doorman seemed mildly curious as he announced me through the phone, then nodded for me to go up.
“Eight” he said.
The elevator interior was dark and well-polished. It smelled divine, like ancient incense, a resinous and exotic smell. I spotted myself in the smooth brass surface of the elevator panels as they closed and saw how tense I was. Sighing deeply, I smiled and fixed a few stray hairs before the doors opened.
As every New Yorker knows, one of the great charms of this chaotic city is that each interior takes one into a tiny, secluded world. Somehow the difference in scale and magnitude between what is outside and what is inside is so vast it creates a kind of osmotic barrier where life stays blissfully contained within the intimacy of the space you inhabit. Particularly with another person present, because then you can actually feel the miracle of sharing space and coherence with another in the vast, surrounding cacophony.
My knock was answered almost immediately. I caught my breath slightly as he opened the door wide, bowed his head, and made a sweeping gesture to welcome me in. It was the same way he would open the door for the next three years—an old-fashioned affectation I would grow to love.
The room was small and neat; almost a perfect square...It was originally intended to be an efficiency apartment. Two windows looked out over Madison Avenue; a small door led to a bathroom; next to it was a floor-to-ceiling shelf full of books on spirituality, the occult, Kabbalah, mysticism, currency. A small artist’s model of a hand in prana mudra and an image of the enneagram rested with the books. There was a long desk stacked with more towers of books and a display of family photographs and esoteric artworks. The floor was covered with a large oriental rug. I recall there was also a small kitchenette (never used) behind a curtain. Two sturdy wooden chairs stood facing each other in the center of the room about ten feet apart. Each had a side table with a bottle of water on it. He took his seat in one—a framed image of St. George and the Dragon behind him on the wall—while I sat in the other.
That day set the rhythm for our meetings to come. He began to introduce mystical principles through metaphor and example. He painted a picture for me of what I could become through this work: a mighty oak from a small acorn; a being with an evergreen temperament—never changing through all seasons. He admonished me not to be so sentimental, so emotional. He asked questions and listened closely; not for answers so much as for something below the surface. He seemed to receive vast amounts of information from the small amounts of data I was giving him. When I complained about money (no complaining was commitment #2) he responded curtly,
“No complaining. You need to be more Madison Avenue, not Bohemian SoHo taking naps in the middle of the day and hanging out with artists. Be disciplined. Get up early. When its business hours…work hard. Put the pieces in place for success. Sit in your office as command central and orchestrate. Make it happen. Make it possible to happen.”
He was direct in a way I’d never known and then sometimes disarmingly tender, “What is this harsh voice you use with yourself? You must be gentle.”
After a while, we sat there in silence…him studying me and listening to something beyond my perception; me managing some raw combination of self-consciousness and overwhelm…when he nearly startled me with a question. It wasn’t the question itself that startled me, but the force with which it came, like an arrow straight to the heart,
“What is it that you want?” The question was asked in a way that insisted on an answer just as direct.
“To be…free.” That felt like the most sincere answer I had access to.
“Free from what?”
I squirmed as his gaze held me in my seat. Suddenly, my skin felt tight around me. It was like I was something very big stuffed into a too-tight suit. I felt I might burst. With some difficulty I managed,
“Free from this body.” I was embarrassed at the specificity. But, it was true. At that time, my body was a prison of unruly sensation and reaction. I felt it acutely in that moment. I’d been struggling with it since adolescence.
“You need to become more than this body. You are growing something inside of yourself…there’s a seed planted now. It’s time to become.
“How do I do that?” I asked. I felt despondent.
“I will show you. It’s like a pregnancy…there’s nothing else to do. Now you must read, learn, listen, relax, pay attention, and prepare for the eventual birth of your soul.”
He went to the bookshelf and took down a small framed image I hadn’t noticed. He handed it to me and took his seat again. I saw that it was a poem.
I read aloud, “Last Letter to His Wife by Rene Daumal…
I am dead because I lack desire,
I lack desire because I think I possess.
I think I possess because I do not try to give.
In trying to give, you see that you have nothing;
Seeing that you have nothing, you try to give of yourself;
Trying to give of yourself, you see that you are nothing:
Seeing that you are nothing, you desire to become;
In desiring to become, you begin to live.”
I looked up at him floating on the wave of words. I understood this. I had felt for a long time that so much of what I possessed and gave and had meant very little. I sensed the emptiness in my life, in my work, in my marriage.
“You say you are a yogi…let’s meditate.” He planted his feet squarely on the ground, sitting bolt upright, palms face down on his thighs. “Like this…with your eyes open,” he said, “like the Egyptians.” Something about the way he said it felt like he knew this firsthand.
We settled into position across the small space, mirror images, man and woman, staring into each other’s eyes. I followed the instruction he offered, moving imaginary light with my attention through my body…from the earth up through my feet into my torso to my head and back down. Up one side and down the other…activating channels long dormant.
After a few minutes something began to happen. The light I had been imagining was no longer imaginary. It was flooding the room. At first I thought the sun must have moved from behind a cloud outside…maybe the light was streaming into the room through the windows. I checked my peripheral vision, but was held by H’s eyes. I realized he was the source of the light that was all around us now. We were swimming in radiance.
The features of H’s face and head dissolved. His body was as solid as a mountain, dense and sturdy like the chair, like an Egyptian statue. But his head was floating, illuminated, nearly gone. Through the light the head of a wise man emerged, hoary and bearded like God of the Sistine Chapel or The Ancient of Days. His timeless eyes were kaleidoscopic and staring into me with a warmth and wisdom beyond words. The vision was unmistakeable, not a trick of the light. I knew this because I felt the significance of the moment with every cell. My heart was overcome with emotion. Tears streamed down my cheeks.
“Why are you crying?” he asked gently from the light, from a timeless dimension.
With effort, I said, “It’s so…” The word that came to me next was a surprise but it was the right one: “familiar. It’s so familiar.”
I felt a deep sense of relief from a weight I’d been carrying for as long as I could remember. Maybe it was a fear of living a whole life without knowing this…whatever this was…again…and relief to have been found?
He smiled warmly and withdrew the light. We were back in the office over Madison Avenue again. He stood and walked to the door where my coat was hanging. I knew it was time to go. I stood also, a bit in a daze, and moved towards the door.
“Write down all your observations about yourself so we can deconstruct them. You have false ideas that need to be dismantled…Don’t rush, take it slow…The Universe wants you to succeed so it will help. It is time.”
Out in the bright winter sunshine, I decided to walk through Central Park to the subway. I needed to digest what had just happened. I needed to ground. Walking along Fifth Avenue I stopped at a street artist’s stand. I checked my phone to find a text message from H:
“The more in touch you are with your spirit, the more likely you are to execute your mission.”
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