Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off.
Dance in the middle of fighting.
Dance in your blood.
Dance, when you’re perfectly free.
You have to keep asking yourself this, over and over again,
“What is reality?
What is consciousness?
What am I doing here?”
Spend periods in the silence,
where you observe your breath,
where you watch your thoughts,
do this as often as you can.
Never react to the world no matter what it shows you.
Dive deep within the Self.
But the butterfly.
The intake of breath at the remembering it brought. The long exhale of relief. Its a different world in just one breath. In this world, I am fat with gratitude. I’ve come back. I relax and the water now carries me. I ride it. This is no more complicated than learning to surf. It’s a skill, that’s all, and it takes practice to master.
I want to live skillfully. I allow the joy inherent in being alive to reduce my suffering down to size. It wasn’t so big after all. It just grew with all the attention my brain was giving it.
I wonder how long I will remember this time. I shake my head affectionately at my faltering progress. I breathe a soft thank you to the butterfly and to the Animator of the butterfly for the reminder. I breath in, I breath out, and I trust the process.
For so many I speak with, there is an undercurrent of aggression, self-hatred, unexamined shame, lack of acceptance, longed-for forgiveness, and absence of self-kindness toward their experience. Let us all take a pause, and from a place of love visualize a holding environment for ourselves, where we grant ourselves permission to make intimate and direct contact with our vulnerabilities, with our unguarded and unprotected hearts, with our unprocessed challenges from the past, and with our less-than-awakened thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. We can take just one moment and appreciate the complexity and counter-instinctual nature of awakening and healing and allow a deeply profound love and kindness to fill us, cell by cell.
Let us be willing to no longer abandon ourselves, exiting into our stories and unkind judgments, and inquire with love into the habitual belief that there is something fundamentally wrong with us. Then, in an instant, we behold the flow of grace which pours through the eyes of everyone we meet, including that unknown precious one that we see when we look in the mirror. And then all that could possibly remain is an unshakeable faith in love’s perfection.
Love After Love
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
~ Derek Walcott
That beauty near-death voyagers describe,
returned to their bodies with heart thumps,
or try to describe before they realize words
are to the eternal as the dark is to a lamp,
might be close to this, as if we’ve entered
a mile long hologram of spiral nebulae
or the neuro-networks of a frozen brain,
everything glazed and glistening, clarified
in a silence of hanging windchimes, even the smallest
twig an icy capillary, every millet blade
diamond-spined. Walk for a moment
over the snow crust and the sound is stiff brocade,
the feeling slight gliding. Every reflection
seems a further facet of a farther star,
and at the nexus of white galaxies,
synaptic leapings in the sycamore,
ski trails down a broken milkweed pod,
a crystal river through the interstice
of two larch boughs. Every branch and needle
backlit by each other, Victorian lace,
chandelier pinecones, the last jet vapor trails
criss-crossed in a fallen maple leaf.
Breathe slowly, look long, In only hours
bedraggled life will reassert itself
and shaking melted colors from the sun,
tend onwards as dawn. In a day or less,
mud and rocks and damaged undergrowth,
the basal rosettes of the winter cress.
This poem describes a scene of transcendent beauty that the poet strolled through on a moonlit, ice-covered woods. While reading it, it struck me like a barreling train. I was caught up in the imagery, thinking that it so perfectly describes the “mountain-top experience”, that place where the Universe is singing to me, where spiritual insights surprise and engulf me. The place where hope resides. When I got to the last few stanzas, I felt strongly reminded that after the mountain-top, the desert. After the times of insight, the fall into the everydayness of life’s challenges, perhaps even into a dark place. I was reminded that the loosening of the knots requires both the transcendent beauty and the return to the mud and rocks and damaged undergrowth. I felt a sense of rest replace my anxiety and self-recrimination. I felt the gentle brush of hope’s wings against my cheek and was filled with gratitude.
(How is it that I find just what I need to read or hear just when I need it so very badly? Seen at Tertium Squid )
Four years ago I was somebody. I made a lot of words in those days. I was a word maker. Talking talking talking talking. Writing writing writing writing writing. Talking and writing. In my defense, there were people who wanted to hear me. There was even a group of people who paid me to talk to them every Sunday morning. It was a straight-up gig. On the level. I made words for people.
So many words. So very many words.
So I was at the talking place one Sunday morning, doing my talking thing, when I began to feel that I had said enough. My mouth slowly closed until it was small and round, like the mouths of the kids singing at the end of A Charlie Brown Christmas. And then my lips came together and no more words wanted to come out.
I could not make those kinds of words anymore. So I backed away from the microphone. I kept backing up until I had backed all the way out of the room and into the parking lot. I backed into my car, drove it backwards all the way home, and backed into a dark closet. I wrapped myself in a thick blanket of nobody, and I haven’t come out since.
nobody to fix
nobody to heal
nobody to care for
nobody to feel
nobody needs me
nobody sees me
nobody hears me
nobody feeds me
I am nobody. I am not a body.
These days I wander around looking at the world in new ways. And I’m watching all the busy and important bodies walking fast and talking even faster. I don’t know where they are going. I don’t know why they are in such a hurry. And I don’t know what they are saying. It’s probably the same stuff I used to say, but I’m not sure because their words don’t make sense to me. I cannot make sense. Of their words.
I seem to not know things now. I am not able to know the things that other people know.
I live in a state of unknowing.
But I know I’m not alone. Now that I’m off the main road and not moving so fast, I see footprints meandering here and there and trailing off into the woods. I feel the presence of someone else. Another nobody.
There’s a pair of us.
Lying down for a rest, my mind took me places that made me sad. I was thinking of how meditation and reflection bring you face to face with yourself and the workload is to not turn away, but instead turn toward what you see. As my thoughts meandered around the things I might not want to see, I thought about how we all want to be happy, to feel safe, to not be afraid. And what keeps us from being happy often is just this – not considering what it is that is keeping us from it. It can be easy to see how other people’s strategies for happiness aren’t working. Not so easy to identify our own strategies and see why they aren’t working.
Life itself will teach you the strategies that don’t work after we butt our heads against the wall enough times. Sometimes even that isn’t enough – we can see the failure yet stay attached to it for lack of a better plan. We continue to use food, entertainment, drink or smoke, shopping, busyness, etc. to soothe us and make us feel “better”, even though we know those things don’t ultimately give us happiness.
In fact, it’s probably safe to say that any false strategy to produce happiness will ultimately grant us grief instead. We become addicted, tied up, attached to the thing and it becomes a barrier to our well-being.
I thought of my fears. And of how we all share the same ones, once you boil them down. We all fear death, getting old, being sick or suffering with extreme infirmity or crippling poverty. And we fear these things for those we love – that they will suffer, be ill, grow old, die. We fear losing everything and everyone we love.
But we don’t face these fears. I think this is at the heart of our difficulties. It’s why happiness is so fleeting and illusive. It runs through our fingers like water. We can’t grasp it. Even the things or people that we have in our lives that make us feel truly happy don’t come with a guarantee of permanence.
And yet … and yet it is the testimony of those who radiate serenity and well-being that happiness is there to be had. Not grasped with our desperate fists, but like a deep pool to rest in and become enveloped in, supported by. Happiness is something to jump into, splash around in. And I think looking at our fears, facing them and learning how to release them is the way to change our actions from grasping to swimming.
Attraction/Aversion = grasping
This is key. Take the big fear. Death. I want to live. I don’t want to die. But the fact is: I will die. I will die. Not facing that squarely and honestly keeps me in bondage. It’s like standing at the pool with weights shackled to my ankles. I can’t jump in. I can’t rest in this pool of happiness and serenity with the weight of this fear. I will die. Face that and life becomes richer, more precious. Priorities change. Other myriad weights from other chains fall off independently of any effort and the pool becomes a possibility.
The fear of aging? I don’t want to get old. But I will, I am. Unless I die, I will get old, I will be ill, I will lose everything. Why not face these fears and rest in the arms of serenity? Suffering over them holds no guarantee of them not happening. They will. Not facing this causes untold suffering, grief and anxiety. How can you truly enjoy anything or anyone with the weight of your fear binding you up? Even the lovely things become a burden by their impermanence. How many times have you tried to hold on to a magical moment and lost it by the trying?