As you see, bolder formatting is temporarily gone from this site. I’ve stripped it down while making changes, but also to symbolize my current state.
In meditation this morning, the theme of faith arose. Unkind thoughts were present – an argument I’ve been having with someone for as long as I can remember… feelings of injustice, betrayal, silencing. But, rather than get deeper into the argument, I could see how it had affected my trust levels in relationships, and how much of ‘me’ it had defined.
I would say, “I’d let it define”, but that wouldn’t be accurate. It is more like, my quest to resolve or escape it has, both knowingly and unknowingly, defined key interpretations.
As can happen in meditation, I could experience the argument as an object of attention, one of various, a wheel spinning off in the corner somewhere, bigger or smaller, taking up more or less space. And I could ask, “Help me let this go.”
Who was I asking? Who was the I, asking? Worthwhile questions, but distractions in this context, because more important is the asking itself and the imagining… the feeling of the possibility of that wheel no longer spinning so fast, defining so much.
I think this imagining, at the point at which ‘I’ runs out, or intersects, is faith, and where across religious/spiritual disciplines and schools of thought, there may mustard seed sized agreement. It is a bit like a blank slate itself.
Today, after a full night of tossing and turning, I felt it… a spark of innocence floating in the air. It seemed very real, yet somehow not of the same universe or substance as the rest. I watched, my inner vision locked in on the hint of the glimmer, as just like the Good Witch’s bubble in The Wizard of Oz, it grew bigger and bigger; there, yet also not touching anything else.
I asked myself, which is the dream? It didn’t feel like an angel I was wrestling with last night, more like the baggage of a thousand lifetimes, but surely I awoke to some kind of gift.. a new opening of mind or sense of liveliness and freedom through which the wonders of life may flow more freely. Or at least, my awareness of them…
When I first began meditating. I met a monk (who was or wasn’t – it doesn’t matter) in a virtual world who, listening to me talk about my spiritual experiences and visions, cautioned me not to become too enamored, a la Narcissus with his reflection. He suggested I instead consider the taste underlying the experiences, and let that taste spread out, permeating into the rest of life.
While I don’t think I missed the point entirely, it would be a long time before I could see that not owning personal experiences, not holding them too tightly would enable growing wings.
However, something else clicked when that feeling of claiming ownership of experiences fell mostly away. Even to tell a simple personal story began to feel pointless or indulgent. I often felt guilty, or like I was lying. My context was way too wide.
Yet, that’s how people converse. It is normal to ask about someone’s past or hopes for the future. Locating one another in time and space seems necessary to further connection.
So it felt for a while as though I’d undergone surgery, but the wrong part had been removed, leaving me unsure how to interact with the world. Thankfully along the way I found other ‘spiritual types’ who felt this way, and more patience to wait for that phase to pass too.
It was then that the insecurities of childhood and fears of adulthood reappeared with brand new ferocity, and wow, such deep feelings of regret. I suppose now that what happened is that I hadn’t had to deal with those fears and inadequacies for a for a while amidst my blissful romance with meditation and spirituality, and was caught off guard to find the wounds still there, still un-healed.
Doesn’t that sound similar to what people describe in romantic relationships? So much can be covered initially, by awe and newness.
I think that’s what the spark of innocence that greeted me this morning means to remind me. That although my field of perception may feel full of the beasts of doubt and fear at times, I can recognize that they aren’t ‘me’ or ‘mine’. That there are muses of clarity, too. Now I want to see and converse with them all, hear the strange and wonderful things they have to say.
Sometimes when I write a post here, something comes up on twitter that speaks so closely to it that I find it hard to leave out. Today it was,
“…to arrive at that beautiful ancient innocence which consists of the ability to plunge into dream…”
-Albert Camus, Youthful Writings; “Essay on Music,” , 1932 – quoted by Rubynola82
What comes to mind too:
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice. meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. Be grateful for whatever comes. because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.
I watched the documentary Mr. Gaga today. At first, I watched with the sound off and subtitles on, while listening to a podcast. This is an objectively terrible habit I’ve gotten into, of taking multitasking to absurd and undermining ends, but I thought the film might be atmospheric and give an experimental air to the room.
Wonderfully, however, it was the sort of documentary which won’t stand for that treatment, which makes one want to engage with what is happening on screen, inside of the other lives, as though one’s own. And I did!
Eventually I stood up and shook my body convulsively, turned my limbs in odd directions this way and that. It felt great, though I stopped short of practicing the fascinating falls (you’ll have to see the documentary)!
I didn’t know much about Gaga as a dance style, or as a language, as the film suggests. Until taken by friends to see the last Pina Bausch choreographed show Vollmond, I’m embarrassed to say that I knew little of the modern dance world beyond outside of parodies, which always gave the impression of a frivolous world of privilege far far away from my own.
Like many little girls, I had desperately wanted to be a ballerina when young, but it was because I was drawn to the beauty of the sets and movements, the hypnotizing and grand lyricism of it all. In fact, when I was about 13, I followed behind a girl at my church, learning to walk and hold my posture just like hers, pretending that I was also a dancer… a form which stuck and I still haven’t quite broken. I even learned to swing my ponytail like hers, while appearing to hold my head perfectly still.
So I remember feeling confused and overwhelmed after the Pina show, as though my mind had been curled and pushed backwards and all my linear lines of thought thwarted so much that they just wouldn’t work anymore.
Walking out, my sophisticated friends long immersed in the Art World asked what I thought, and I remember trying to compose a sentence or two that might give the impression I understood “the story” at all. I couldn’t. Looking for the story was the story, which was a koan to me.
And because it was a koan to me, for months afterward I felt and dreamed the splashing waters and the whooshing in everything, feeling the force Pina was trying to show, of destruction and resilience, embodying rather than ‘thinking’ about it directly.
This is my sense of things right now… an urgency that has me trying everything under the sun to get out of my head and onto the page, the stage, the whatever-it-takes. I feel like I’m trying to break into my own life, defying convention and my own accepted wisdom to do so.
We were fortunate to see Hamilton! a few weeks ago, which was everything it was cracked up to be. I’ve been obsessed with the music for a year or so, but was still surprised by just how timely the whole thing is when you see it come together, how complex even though popular, and how deep some lyrics run.
Like other great works, although the play is named for one central character, other characters come forth more strongly – as more raw, or their stories more heartbreaking – than does Hamilton himself. Sometimes we’re not sure we like Hamilton at all, and we think we dislike Burr, but his arc is not so simple. Lin Manuel Miranda is very generous with the music, giving others the best melodies.
One of the most poignant of the songs, One Last Time, is a conversation wherein Washington announces to a protesting Hamilton, that he is stepping down rather than running for another term of office. This seems an absurd move when there is much good to do, and such good opportunity right where he is. He’s probably even happy there! Yet the stately Washington makes the case for teaching the country how to say goodbye, for going on in a different way.
I’m terrible at goodbyes. Perhaps I’ve never seen one modeled well. I’ve always found it hard to be clear and just let go, inevitably leaving things half undone for a while, hoping they will make sense of themselves. It is ‘nicer’ in the moment, but not the most mature approach!
These days, people are more likely to ghost, letting others fill in their own narratives, but that doesn’t sit right with me either.
It can be especially hard when there’s no good enough reason, when it really is just a call, which is why I’ve been writing (then editing way down) a letter for the last few days. The meditation (and lots of other things) group I’ve been part of for ten years is full of people I still care for, and I still love the vision.
So it feels more like moving to another town than a break up.
This song *really* helped. Listening a dozen or so times, I heard Washington’s layers of reasons, and accepted that there may never be a good time to go, and I will never feel good about doing so. And that it is the right decision, for now. Of course, the scenario of the song is about the transfer of powers, which my situation is decidedly not, but the emotion he expresses is close. Once I’ve accomplished some things, too, I would like to return. Also unlike Washington, I’m not ready for retirement. 🙂
Much of the song is taken directly from Washington’s final address, and uses a variation of a line from the Bible I always thought was beautiful: “Everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.“… (adding to it, not from the Bible:) “They’ll be safe in this nation we’ve made.”
There lingers love in him and a great vision he remains invested in.