The Masked Angel of No (a Work in Progress)

picsart edit masked angel

The other day I was at the grocery store getting a few groceries after teaching a flamenco class. I hadn’t eaten much earlier in the day and consequently I was quite hungry. I’d also received a bit of disappointing news regarding income, and the combined stresses played their notes raucously within my empty belly as I stood silent waiting to pay.

Upon first coming to the line I’d noted the rather tall man in front of me – I had received a little electrical jolt I’ve now become accustomed to receiving that lets me know some exchange is about to take place. The clerk ringing people up was new at it, and she seemed flustered. Money….

The morning’s meditation session was suddenly recalled. With this I relaxed my posture and stood still in a deliberate way. The moment I did this the fellow in front of me turned, looked at me with a smile, winked and nodded. He was up next to pay for his items and gave the clerk a large bill that wiped out her drawer. In a voice that matched an appearance not unlike a younger Bill Murray he said, “Aww, now see, I’ve wiped you out of all your change. I hope no one else behind me needs money. And I can’t even change my mind.”

She kept diligently counting as he turned to me brightly, “See how I am? Well, I think we should just burn it all. Put it in a great big pile and burn it. Oh wait – I did that last week. Oh well, one of these days people are going to understand that this is not a “For Profit” world.” He then left, change in hand, with an air that was not unlike a younger Bill Murray.

He was a Masked Angel of No. This is one of many such encounters now that things have shifted for me. The lesson of not for profit or personal benefit comes in countless forms and the depth of cultural conditioning about this revealed in a myriad of ways. It makes for a lot of No in my life – seemingly. A shift of awareness can render these nos as resounding yeses.

No is just the reverse of yes – two sides of the same coin, yet there can be worlds of difference as a consequence of one or the other. We see it in the realm of power and money. No, yes, power and money combine in structures that appear to affect consensus reality. Really it’s all happening at once. But in the dream, there seems to be cause and effect. Power players will play both sides of the yes no coin for the cause of power. We can count only on one thing, any position relying upon these foundations will eventually change.

For example, recently women have been giving voice to events that were once silent due to well established relationships of no, yes, money, and power in the world. I can’t say I trust this trend. It’s the stuff of the same dream. For the moment, I see waking up out of the dream as the only possible way of finding resolution. You don’t wash a wound with blood – while I see the swing of a pendulum as a possible indication of early stirrings, the media trending of this discussion, the snowball effect that reminds me of a marketing tipping point, invites me to keep it at arm’s length. There’s a lot I could say about that 2 word hashtag that’s been going around. Volumes, in fact. But I’m not willing to risk the cost of substantiating the dream.

Waking up can mean remaining silent even as the banners of disclosure are flying high. Because to wake up we are asked to do something with our talents that lie outside the boundaries of time and space. Granted you need some time and space to “do” anything at all. But it is possible to carve out a bit of time and space for “applied spirit”. Some of the carving tools are best honed through silence, some through speech. I pray for knowledge of the difference. But sometimes the knowledge comes in the form of a mistake. A no, if you will… yes?

It took a big no in my life to bring me to the place of seeing that I had unconsciously adopted a set of values that others held within the context of my artistic practices – well, one in particular. These values were not my own. Steeped as I was into the culture of this art form as it exists in my general vicinity, I fell into a sort of hypnosis. I was given the grace of rude and painful awakening and learned many things.

Classified as weird, my intelligence actually found the values and habits of those I unconsciously emulated were, from the perspective of my own true nature, equally weird. Copping to this was uplifting. With the big no I volunteered to take, which was to give up a position I held, a flood of new ideas started to pour through. I found that what I really want to do is produce work that transcends tradition, and above all, the personal. I aspire to produce collective work in which no individual’s name is mentioned, for I have become sick to death of this kind of attention calling that has been accepted as an intrinsic part of artistic creation.

This art form which started in very humble roots has progressed to become a rich person’s sport. The sense of community that I was fortunate enough to have experienced in the early days of my learning has fraction-ed off into subgroups and the hope I once held of growing community has been pretty well dashed. I simply don’t have the financial resources to play the game as it is being played now. And while that hasn’t stopped me in the past, intelligence tells me the way has not been made clear because I was not in alignment with the truth of soul.

From the microcosm of this small art world I’ve seen a little about the impossible challenges we meet in addressing global issues. Asleep in the dark I have mistaken my own shadow for a monster. And others are seeing monster shadows in the dark, mistaking them to be outside of themselves. Genuine communication through this density cannot take place. It takes a special force to bring one to the possibility of seeing this. The Masked Angel of No is an agent of this force. Those who are involved in the dream for furtherance of the dream and hence of sleep will use any opportunity as a means to that end. And masked angels can be surrounding the sleeper at every turn, but he or she will only see them as a substantiation of the dream.

A distinction has been realized between the call of creative force as opposed to the call to be an artist. Creative impulse is everything. Artistic creation is almost like the afterbirth by comparison. Creative impulse is the prompting of the greater force of creation. Much of what happens in a culture that is oppressive to our essential nature opposes the creative impulse and glorifies the personality of the artist and the tradition that offers the functional delusion of continuity. As a consequence of this and the money/power piece of the cultural survival game, we have learned to hunger for greater audiences as artists. We may even have learned to depreciate the practice that keeps us at the ready to host the creative impulse. That practice has a far greater range than drill work. To breathe our creative life signifies the cultivation of that which is essential in us, from which the spark of creation can be ignited. The wellspring of creativity is love the force, not love the hallmark card or meme.

I certainly fell for the trap of the cultural aspirations, anyway. I mistook them to be my own. I lost touch with my practice just relative to myself as a changing, impermanent creation. I started seeing the tool as the end in itself, and stopped cultivating the presence that can use this tool. I stopped listening to what was screaming from my own heart, thereby effectively blocking this force – love – from sprouting a new expression.

There’s a Rumi story about a priest who, before his parishioners, prays very fervently for the less devout, the flagrantly greedy, those who have no concern for others outside of themselves and their own selfish agenda. The congregation finally asked why. “Because they have done me such great favors! I befriend and trust them, they effectively beat me with their behavior, abandon me on the street, and I realize yet again that what they want I do not want. They return me back to my original place of friendship with God.” Praise be to the detractors.

The creative impulse, whether in practice or performance IS what is most vital. This underlines the importance of never doing anything for applause. Don’t be motivated by it. And this has been a fundamental problem, I now see, when dealing with those for whom applause is the point. I’ve made mistakes here. And my biggest mistakes tend to happen around keeping others from suffering as I have suffered. Believing myself to know how to do so – having this quality of arrogance. To unlearn these and other flaws has meant a lot of separation from others. I eat a lot of humble pie.

Yet I am always in the company of a Witness. It is this audience that is most accepting and most demanding at the same time, for it requires of me nothing less nor more than the truth of the given moment. To seek audience approval dishonors this Watcher. The work I do to excel, accept, and hold space to the fullness of the moment, this seems to please my Friend. And there is so much work to be done! But it is this Friendship that I most wish to cultivate. To gather with others and bask in this Friendship together would be exquisite.

The character of Kelly has an extreme history. Yet even through the most difficult of these circumstances she nevertheless sought community. There is still present in me this movement, but ground down to acceptance of what is. Recent events have prompted my speaking here, after silence through storms and slander in a small community where I have breathed my art forms as best as possible for decades. Praise be to the slanderers!

No sales pitch. A self reminder. And a bit of a coming out as a bonafide wierdo with changing creative aspirations that don’t glorify art or artists. An aspirant of invisibility who has become more willing to sacrifice identity in order to better host the creative impulse. A crazy who finds herself increasingly more at home lost than found. Who doesn’t belong to any clubs or cliques, but is in company finer and wilder than she ever could have imagined. Peace.





About gracekellyrivera

I am a perfumer and an artist of multiple disciplines located in California.
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