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Catching Up With David Bryen
by Dick Gilkeson
Nearly 10 years ago I asked David Bryen, local counselor and servant to the men's community in Portland, how things were going, and he said that a lot was changing in his life and that he wasn't sure he understood it well enough to say much about it, or something to that effect. I didn't bother to try to pursue his answer any further at that time, but just made a mental note that he seemed almost entranced by whatever the new and strange path was that he was on.

Recently he published a beautiful little book that he wrote and titled The Man Loves the Wine She Serves Through Her Body. It is a collection of twelve koans (i.e. "arresting statements of paradox that invite the recipient into contemplation and thereby delve deeper into their mystery") that were delivered to him through a process that involved honoring his dreams. The poetry related to each koan was created as an "integral part of an intense 10-year, life-changing initiation" that involved "a complete immersion into the very essence of the Divine Feminine."

Bryen writes of the "mysteries where sexuality, sensuality, and spirituality meet" using poetry that makes much of the recent literature on spirituality seem lightweight at best. He tells us: "Two forces meet in the heart. The sacred in its energetic fierceness meets the organized rigidity of the mind and its incapacity to comprehend the spiritual dimension. This collision destroys the easy way we understand right and wrong and involves us in deep paradoxes that accompany encounters with the sacred. Celebration of this mistake requires that we understand this ongoing process and live in the mystery of its pain and beauty."

The power of Bryen's book is that he honors the paradoxes using the medium of poetry to speak to the mysteries. For example, he points out in his poem "Diaphonous Dew" that "the fire itself is unveiled as the dew." Here he explains that when two people fall into the love experience, the heat of passion and desire bring about a euphoria that "creates an unbridled connection with all things in the universe... something of the other world comes into this one, and in mystery creates a third thing. This third thing is referred to as the dew, the water, the elixir of life."

In "Don't Look," Bryen writes: "I've heard them say: 'The heron cannot even bear the weight of the human stare." So it sits on the subtle side of sight, wafting its grace, shimmering as the breeze lifting off the lake dances with feathery hairs. Easy sidewise, fleeting glances do not perturb, but if the longing attaches and becomes a stare, it has no choice but to move away again." Bryen's Muse refuses to be confronted by more than "easy sidewise, fleeting glances" as She says: "I want you to know I'm creating a space for something new to grow." He writes of his "ability to stand in enormous pain and confusion" as the unnamable "She One" undid his life and allowed this something new to grow. "Some One called at the very edge of my sleep, used my name, said no more. I sleep differently now."

In describing his transformation Bryen says he moved to "the edge between what goes seen and unseen, where words are known rather than heard ... at that place where the river meets the shore, the corner of the veil gets lifted by some unknown grace." And when the veil is lifted, for a moment, the blind man is stunned by the Beauty of that gaze. That moment of vision then becomes the light for which he is living, praying, preparing for when it comes again. "It is enough to see it once and I will gladly spend the rest of my life here at the water's edge."

He asks, "How much freer could our sexual exploration be if we understand that something of the sacred desires to show up in our passionate lovemaking? How much more open would we be if we knew that the sacred and the human were both pushing through the veil in order to contact each other, and that the place of this meeting was the body?" His questions explain how the honest human eroticism of his imagery easily becomes confused with the beckoning of his Muse. Wet, sensual lovemaking brings the two worlds together.

"Something transcendant has been contacted in the erotic encounter. A new consciousness develops when the sacred has been served. When the body has given itself over to pleasure, both human and divine, new perceptive capacities emerge ... This new capacity to perceive and participate in the mystery is part of the maturing and deepening that establishes an irreducible relationship with all that is other," he writes. "We are not alone in the quest for the sacred. Our journey in life toward our completion is not only driven by our own intention and desire, but it is also an opening initiated by the not yet known worlds. It is as if two different realities were tunneling through the earth to meet somewhere in the middle. This is a profoundly mutual quest."

Bryen goes on to say that "one of the greatest mysteries of the Divine has to do with needing the conscious development of the human in order for the unfolding nature of the Divine to partake in the joy it creates ... beauty cannot see itself unless there is a human consciousness reflecting on it. Beauty stalks us as if our awareness were required for its existence. Awakening becomes an act of worship. A sunset, a sunrise, an animal appearance, dreams, and desire of all kinds become a place to look for, and find, the Beckoning One who is working in all areas of our bodies to co-create the world."

Throughout the book, Bryen uses the metaphor of grapening, as "water and earth and sun combine to produce grapes, that in turn are worked to produce wine, whose fermentation is used to produce the euphoria we seek." The grapening relies on the She "who brings forth the blossom, the flower, the fruit, the wine and the ecstacy. It is She who is bringing forth this language, this unification with the larger world. It is Her grace that lifts the water through the vine into flower, Her grace that lifts the flower into the grape, Her grace that lifts the grape into wine, and Her wine that carries it to the ecstacy that sends us all back to our rightful home."

The book transports the reader on Bryen's journey. He writes of the need to soothe the tremendous wound created by contact with the Divine. "As soon as there is connection, there is excruciating awareness of the separation. The absence transforms us and in time we become the fullness of the sacred fire. Whatever it is that gets burnt up in the heart of longing becomes the hearth for the heat of the divine....Our conscious participation in the suffering allows spirit and human to combine in such a way to set both free."

Parts of the book are playful including the author's graphics and photographs. The way the words are physically structured on some of the pages at times create the very images to which the words are speaking. Bryen creates an almost cruel joke in "Don't Read This Poem." He suggests that the rest of us might somehow be able to avoid being led by the hand to the cellar to be immersed in the initiatory water down there. As if we could somehow grasp his same deep, newborn appreciation for unity, he writes: "Don't read this poem! Be the morning, or the night, or this moment! Wherever you find yourself, lose that, become what you see be the heartbeat of your heart! Then lose even that! Lose all the way and become the Beauty you seek."

Unfortunately the passion of his poetry reinforces the pain and confusion involved in the initiatory journey. It is clear there can be no shortcuts, and Bryen's book may surely give others the courage to follow their Muse and love the wine she serves through her body.

Bryen closes the book with a poem called "Secret Crow" which tells us where he is today: "Full of love I return to the still lake like the secret crow absorbed in the unknown."

The Mentor Page in Community ConneXion is always looking for information regarding men and our lives to share with the community. Please send articles to: Dick Gilkeson, Editor, 16448 NW McNamee Road, Portland, OR 97231.