Angel

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Dream Sequence #2 | Excerpt from my book (a work in progress), Soldier of Love
image credit: Demonizing Pac-Man by Jim Davies, Acrylic on Canvas, 2001

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A ferocious storm is wreaking havoc on a beautiful gem of an island in the glistening Caribbean Sea, at the rich golden light of a late tropical afternoon. What had been forecast to be a routinely warm and pleasant day, across the island, has been precisely that. There’s been no earsplitting thunderbolts nor hurricane force winds, no electrifying strikes of lightning or torrential down pour, no cyclone, earthquake, volcano nor tempestuous tsunami. Yet an eerie threat of death and destruction has gripped this ordinarily idyllic and tranquil place. Everyone, everywhere, is concerned. Not a single soul has ever been exposed to this nature of disaster before. Dread hangs heavy over the island’s warm air as the tempestuous rampage torments our sunny, little town.

I’m not old enough to have witnessed any of the storms and hurricanes reminisced on by my parent’s and their friends, nor any of the other disasters, which have occurred elsewhere and repeatedly replayed on TV. For all of my eight years, I have lived quite a happy, carefree life here on our blissful, sun-soaked island. I’ve been lucky to live here with my baby sister and our parents in our family’s fresh, white cotton and lace on polished mahogany, old-English style, Caribbean B&B. Not many kids can boast that their home is always teeming with intriguing out of town visitors, who continuously regale us with amazing stories of their travels to far way places and their extraordinary encounters with foreigners and their unusual friends. Our home is also a popular and much-loved meeting place for the untraveled locals who live close by. People are always dropping in for tea, drinks, to play cards or dominoes, or to catch up on and debate the latest international and local news.

We live in a very large, old-fashioned, mansion dating back to colonial times, long before I was born. We occupy a private section at the right rear of the building and our Bread & Breakfast occupies the rest. My mother is meticulous in caring for our home. She beams with bright eyes and a wide, warm smile, when others call it her pride and joy. She works hard with the helpers, to ensure the many rooms and sitting areas are spotless, neat, tidy, and comfortable for everyone who visits us here.

“Cleanliness is next to Godliness!” She consistently advises everyone. “You never know who is going to drop by. So we must always be prepared.”

A long, continuous, covered veranda, paved in smooth flat grey stones encircles the entire first floor of our house. Wide pathways of the identical stone emanate like sunrays out from each side, to meander through lush, green gardens, dense with fragrant flowers, unusual plants and shrubbery. Coconut, ackee, mango, orange, pear, apple and other trees, abundant with delicious fruit, are sprinkled everywhere, providing much needed shade over patches of our yard, front and back, as well as the special area where all my friends, children of visitors as well as locals, come to play. Our yard is the perfect oasis, kept private and safe, within tall walls of orange-blossom, hibiscus hedges and sturdy wrought iron gates.

Our home sits right in the middle of a swirling sea of pastel-colored houses; varied, vibrant and never-ending like the people who come to visit or a rainbow after it rains. The surrounding houses are mostly similar in style to each other, almost reminiscent of dollhouses, more modern than ours and slightly smaller in scale. Each is stuccoed in its own fantastical hue and playfully accented with brightly lacquered, shiny wooden shutters, doors and trim. Some flaunt authentic Spanish-style terracotta tile roofs, as well as complementing, freshly polished, deep-red colored concrete driveways, verandas and patios, while others are more staid. And like ours, all of their lawns, gardens, fruit trees and hedges are verdant, lush, fertile and very well maintained. Our community, save for its spirited circus of Caribbean colour, is typically quiet, safe and serene. There’s never, ever, much need for alarm. But today, chaos threatens to devour us and, to the thinly guised displeasure of my mother, our B&B has been rendered “irreparably” upside down.

“God only knows why one of those smaller houses, only a short distance away, as if possessed by Satan, has uprooted itself from its foundation and set out on some sort of bizarre cannibalistic storm!?“ She is most unnerved.

Comically red-capped, shaded with emerald green shutters and decked out in coat of brilliant yellow, this maniacal house began its reign of terror, with the flurry and fervor of Pac-Man. This gnashing, gnarling little monster, frantically and indiscriminately, is gobbling up house after defenseless house, everything in its path, wood, concrete, steel and stone.  It’s already eaten so many of the others it’s swollen to almost quadruple its original size. Presently, it dwarfs even the largest of the other houses close by. The earth quakes as its ballooning presence chomps its way through the neighborhood, looming ever closer toward our home. Terracotta roofs crumble around us, windows shatter and shutters splinter with every chaotic crunch. Panicked people flood into the streets, narrowly escaping, desperate to salvage all they can and save their imperiled lives. For once this little demon arrives nothing and no one will be safe or left behind.

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We are transfixed in my big bedroom widow on the third floor of our house as the relentless monster inches closer from the distance. There’s a curious bemused, smug smirk on its face? Along the path where it’s been, flattened piles of colorful debris lie lifeless, where sunshiny, happy island homes once stood. I’m amazed.

“Come on, we have to hurry.” She snaps me into now.

I am a small boy, anxiously gripping the right hand of my mother’s perfectly manicured hand. She is crisply dressed in a colorful cotton dress; fifties floral print with a fitted bodice, full circle skirt and loads of fresh white crinoline underneath, a stylish hat the color of the sky, gloves and stockings to match. She is angelic, tall, slender and stately with pretty pink lips and salon perfect hair. Despite the frenetic frenzy that rages outside, she’s calm and composed with me, within. She is, as always, watchful, steps ahead, consistently exercising caution, careful to never rattle my trust. I am confident she’ll keep me safe from the monster house. And would do so at the risk of her life.

She urgently hustles me from the safety of my room into the chaos of the B&B. She’s vigilant to check every guestroom, rapping briskly on each door then entering to ensure no one is left lagging behind. There are voices behind us, we double back along the corridor to see if they’re OK.

“We must leave the at once.”

She’s brisk, though caring, in charge but always kind.

She pauses us for a moment to check on the monster’s advance from a second floor window at the back of our house. It’s closer. Its red rooftop towers taller, now just grazing the bright blue Caribbean sky.

“There’s no time left. We cannot wait.”

Her voice speaks utters an urgency that for one fleeting moment dares threaten to expose her fear.

“Some of my toys are missing.” I blurt in my confusion.

“Why didn’t you take them with you when I first told you to?”

She appears panicked in her retort at the first instance, but catches and corrects herself the next. Lovingly, though justifiably shaken, she allows me one final sweep. I dash back; she follows, into the B&B’s elegant red-walled second floor private lounge.  It’s ominously quiet in here where only moments ago the room was electric with the animated chatter of an electrified crowd? Now suddenly, eerily, no other sound can be heard, save for the hollow disquieting hum of the monster house’s advance. My toys are on the table where I’d left them when we first bolted from the room. There are suitcases on the floor up ahead. I scurry over to spring them open for anything else I might find.

“They’re empty!” She scolds.

I realize immediately that I too already knew.

“Come on! Leave the suitcases! It’s time for us to go.”

Instantly, the Pac-Man house’s is upon us. I grab my toys. Thud! Chomp! We bolt out the door. Crash! We narrowly escape the collapse of room’s outer blood-red wall. Boom, behind us as we turn the corner out into the upper balconied hall. Creak, a section of roof is ripped from above us. Brightness floods in, brilliant sunshine, we dare not delay.

Swoosh, swoosh, click, click! I’m rushed alongside the hi-hat of heels and brush of crinoline, down the B&B’s waxed-shiny wooden stairs. Smash! Her delicate left hand aggressively flings open our home’s heavy front doors, while the right continues to firmly grip mine. Slam shut, the door behind us! She steers me, single-armed aloft, down the veranda’s stone stairs, my feet dangling, cycling the air. Along the main gardened walkway, past blurring orange-peppered hedges, clang, out the gates and we are almost there.

Swoosh, swoosh, click, click, click, we catch up with others. Once far enough away, I dare fear to peek back only to see the red-capped, sun-streaked, Pac-Man demon devouring the last of our big, seemingly delicious B&B. Funny, it still has that mischievous smug smirk on its face? We are safe. She’s sparkling, fresh, crisp and clean. Unscathed. And soon enough, I realize, as am I.

I awake, safe, from my Pac-Man nightmare dream.

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~ Len D. Henry

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The Dhamma Brothers

The Dhamma Brothers tells a dramatic story of human potential and transformation as it closely follows and documents the stories of a group of prisoners as they enter into this arduous program. It will challenge assumptions about the very nature of prisons as places of punishment rather than rehabilitation. Despite the difficulty in obtaining permission to film inside a prison, the Alabama Department of Corrections allowed a film crew to document, not only the Vipassana program, but many other scenes and settings revealing the daily lives of prisoners and staff.

Before the Vipassana retreat, the men openly express fear and trepidation, wondering what they will find when they look deeply within and face the consequences of past actions and trauma. They are shown packing their scant belongings and preparing for the journey inside, a very short walk down the prison corridor but a sea change in their lives as prisoners. We observe the transformation of the prison gym, a frequent site for violent battles among inmates, into a monastery, a separate, restricted place in which the inmate students can eat, sleep, and meditate in total seclusion from the rest of prison society.

The Vipassana teachers, Bruce and Jonathan, prepare to live and meditate with the inmates. Teachers and inmates, men from culturally different worlds, are locked together in a dramatically revealing process. This is, most likely, the first time non-inmates have ever lived among inmates inside a prison.

Seated on meditation mats on a red rug donated by the Warden, wrapped in navy blue blankets, the men sit still in silence as they journey inside. Their days are punctuated by a strict daily routine of eating, sleeping and meditating.

After the Vipassana retreat, the men tell their tales of pain and self-discovery. The spiritual warriors of Donaldson Correctional Facility discuss their collective experiences and vow to try to maintain their nascent sense of solidarity. In the nameless, faceless anonymity of prison life, where daily life is organized around social control and punishment, Vipassana has offered an alternative social identity based on brotherhood and spiritual development.

The stories of the men at Donaldson Correctional Facility are those of the unseen, unheard, and underserved. This film shines a spotlight upon society’s outcasts and untouchables as we witness them on their Odyssean journey into their misery to emerge with a sense of peace and purpose.

Learn more about the film at – www.dhammabrothers.com

Doing Time, Doing Vipassana

Winner of the Golden Spire Award at the 1998 San Francisco International Film Festival, this extraordinary documentary takes viewers into India’s largest prison – known as one of the toughest in the world – and shows the dramatic change brought about by the introduction of Vipassana meditation. In giving Doing Time, Doing Vipassana its top honour, the jury stated that:

“it was moved by this insightful and poignant exposition on Vipassana. The teaching of this meditation as a transformation device has many implications for people everywhere, providing the cultural, social and political institutions can embrace and support its liberating possibility.”
___________

Winner of the 1998 NCCD Pass Awards of the American National Council on Crime and Delinquency. A distinguished panel of experts found Doing Time, Doing Vipassana to be worthy of recognition and deserving of special acclaim:

“..The National Council on Crime and Deliquency is honored to recognize your excellence in communicating the complex problems of crime to the American people. We hope this award will serve as a constant reminder that your work can make a difference..”

Be sure to view the entire film – catch all 4 segments post on Youtube.

Vipassana Meditation

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Just returned from a 5-day work period and before that, a month ago, a 3-day sit, at the Ontario Vipassana Centre – an amazing retreat for working on you. The meditation technique was introduced to me by a good friend, Karen King, early last year. And it has literally changed my life – living and eating healthier, more conscious, and not taking everything to the panicked extremes I usually do. Guess that’s all part of life’s process anyway. But Vipassana let’s you see it as it is – as it really is.

Without me getting into the details of the technique, best you check it out for yourself – info and link below. This is not a religion by the way – so all are welcomed. To participate, you must apply online and attend a full 10 day sit. As my friend told me before I did my first sit – “under no circumstances give yourself an excuse to leave.” You sit must the the entire 10 days to reap the benefits.

What’s also amazing is that it’s free. Yes, free. This is part of the mandate, if you do not pay, you live like monks and you have no ego expectations. Still, the management, teachers, participants, accommodations and food are all spectacular. Trust me though, you’ll be so moved, if you make it through, you’ll want help support the centre, via contributions and/or ‘dhamma service’ conscious volunteer work, to keep it going. I recommend Vipassana 1000%. I’ve tried other forms of meditation but this is it – no crystals, oils, music, beads, nothing. Just you, your mind and your body. Amazing!!

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There are centres all over the world. Jump online and find out what location is closest to you. The Ontario Vipassana Centre is in Egbert, just south of Barrie. That’s where I took the pic – on the beautiful grounds.

Please do yourself a massive favour and check it out…

Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, is one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation. It was rediscovered by Gotama Buddha more than 2500 years ago and was taught by him as a universal remedy for universal ills, i.e., an Art of Living.

Vipassana is a way of self-transformation through self-observation. It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body which can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body and that continuously interconnect and condition the life of the mind. It is this observation-based self-exploratory journey to the common root of mind and body that dissolves mental impurity resulting in a balanced mind full of love and compassion.

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Click to visit their website for more info.

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