December 17, 2016
Friends,

Sorry ahead of time for communicating this news in such an impersonal way, but I wanted to share an important decision... one I was tiring of repeating of over and over again. Or perhaps you’ve already heard, but are missing some of the details. Either way, I’ll try to keep this short and un-dramatic.

Seven or eight years ago, I proposed to my men’s group a seminar exercise as a topic of conversation: What would each of us do if we knew we only had a short while left to live? I actually had no idea what my answer would be, and was really surprised when what came out of my mouth was: “I want to find a small cabin on a mountaintop somewhere, where I can go with a small cache of books, my computer and music keyboard, meditation cushion, and a loyal German Shepard.” The plan —which arrived complete and fully-formed— was to go off, for a year, to sit, hike, read, and write music. This desire has been with me ever since it arose back then.

I’ve thought a lot about why we’re here and what, if anything, we should be doing with our lives (though that, of course, is not the best way to approach existential questions). One thing I’ve discovered, though, is that my relationship to music —what I experience when something is playing, and what I hear in my mind when there is silence— is quite different than what goes on for most people I know... and it’s one of those creative attunements that feels like an important thing for me to deepen, and express. And, probably mostly for reasons of personal weakness, but maybe also because living just takes up a lot of time, I’ve not made composing a priority. I’d very much like that to change.

I remember at one point feeling inspired by Terrence McKenna —one of my heroes— urging his audience to: “be creators, not consumers.” And lord knows, there is a virtual infinity available to consume… music, ideas, the multimedia web flying forth in all directions from friends and marketing electrons, and the cacophonous interplay of forces coming from billions of humans —politically, personally, sensually, intellectually, in feeling and creativity and facts… There is, literally, no end to it (the “10,000 things,” as it were). And as I approach the big 60 (next April) —which I’m hoping will not be as utterly weird as turning 40, and then 50— I decided that it’s just time to get on with it already.

My choice has also been somewhat facilitated by the fact that my parents will likely not be spending any more time in their summer home of 25 years, in Lenox, Massachusetts (right next to the Tanglewood music center and Kripalu spiritual/healing community). I can just... go there, to a fully set-up house, up in the woods, quiet and secluded. Of course, none of this would be happening without Oriana’s support— and having to maintain her own responsibilities along with all the extra ongoing details of life that I was taking care of (especially as related to the house, food/cooking, etc.), all the while enduring her own unchosen retreat into silence and being alone. It has been a decision with a lot of energetic ramifications extending in many directions, as you can imagine.

My intention really is that this be a personal “retreat,” with a lot of time devoted to meditation and going “in”... the non-doing yin to some other focused activity. I do really want to dive deep into writing music, as best I can (and how nice that there’s a baby grand piano sitting on the wooden living room floor there, which will likely be my composing space). I am also deeply interested in working on a other personal projects which I’ve danced around but not gotten down with enough to really draw the benefits from... consolidating (and also eliminating) many decades worth of accumulated information related to the development and refining of Being… diet, physical/energetic toning and sensitizing, and the testing/establishment of systems and lifestyle patterns that really work (for me)— focuses that I’m hoping will be more doable without the distractions and demands of “normal life.” Ideally, if successful, I will return to the “populated world” with enough grounding and momentum to sustain much of this. The “trick” (which I very much hope to master) is how to do without doing too much...

What I will NOT be doing is watching television or youtube clips, going to movies or the any of the numerous entertainment offerings that abound there starting around July. This community comes alive with music, dance, museums, theatre, and all the people who flood in for the summer to take advantage of the cultural and scenic beauty of the place. (Well, I probably shouldn’t say none, but... you get the idea. If the Boston Symphony plays Pictures at an Exhibition again, I fully plan to cut myself some slack and grab a ticket for the lawn!)

I don’t know what the Aikido options are up in that area, nor what of that I’ll keep up with this coming year; I may just develop some of my own practices. But in general, my life over the last number of years has been turning more inward —I know, because of my energetic nature, it doesn’t seem that way— and when people ask me “what’s up?,” I often find I don’t really have a good response, other than initiating a conversation about some deep process that’s been going on that I generally don’t feel is either appropriate or that I’m really capable of authentically bringing out successfully. But settling in even more deeply is something I’m very much interested in, and every meditation retreat I complete (I think I’m up to 19 now) just increases that desire even more.

There is a wonderful quote that I really like from the well-known scientist/naturalist/essayist Loren Eiseley, which may not be perfectly applicable here, but it’s close enough for me:
It is a commonplace of all religious thought, even the most primitive, that the man seeking visions and insight must go apart from his fellows and live for a time in the wilderness. If he is of the proper sort, he will return with a message. It may not be a message from the god he set out to seek, but even if he has failed in that particular, he will have had a vision or seen a marvel, and these are always worth listening to and thinking about.
— from Judgement of the Birds
Mostly I am interested in visions and insights for myself, and the creative pursuit of my own musical muse. But at a deeper level, I can say that I don’t believe we are going to change the world into what we believe it can be, even a bit, by applying the tools we generally use. I don’t think we’re designed to live in such large populations (or be subjected to such a godawful daily ration of electromagnetic radiation and man-made chemicals), nor do I believe our problems —stemming more than anything else, it seems to me, from a lack of meaningful connection with the world and each other— will be ameliorated through a more sophisticated level of planning and left-brain activity. Yes, we need to communicate with each other, but we also need to touch one another... and I’ve decided to devote more time and energy to that place from which touch emerges… of feeling and right-brained, inspired, creative, peaceful, patient Being. Very tough to say, and even harder (or maybe even impossible) to do. But I’m hoping it may be possible to not-do.

But this letter has likely extended far past the point of interest for most readers, so I’ll close before losing out on even the possibility of a welcome return. I will be maintaining my email account (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), and am open to staying in touch— especially if the letters I receive are personal in nature, or contain things that fit in with this year’s path… philosophical/spiritual writing, poetry and the like. So basically, if you find some really cool stuff on the web to share with me (especially if it’s political), don’t ! It really is just too easy to move on from that to other things, and then there we are again, consuming instead of creating. Enough of that already!

So, Namaste, my friends. I’ll see you again before you know it.

 
Mark
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