“He pondered this feeling which completely filled him as he slowly made his way. He pondered deeply, sinking down into the depths of this feeling, as through deep water, until he reached the point where the causes lie. For to know the causes – so it seemed to him – that is what thinking is. And only in this way do feelings become knowledge instead of being wasted. In this way they become meaningful and begin to radiate what is within them.”
-Herman Hesse, Siddhartha
When things unravel with such fury, we conclude that something should be held responsible.
We look for a place to lay our blame, though the source of our pain often has the power to be a catalyst for growth, a facilitator of movement in stagnant waters.
If we can un-stick ourselves from the quicksand of resentment, if we can rise up out of our blaming the way mist rises from a lake, it becomes probable that we will find our way out of every yesterday and all tomorrows, arriving like a loosed arrow in the heart of this very hour, the mark of this very breath.
It’s okay if we haven’t learned this yet, we just keep trying. Eventually, when the nameless urge tugs at our navel, we will follow it more easily, breaking out of our old habits, though it takes everything (even the undivided attention of our bone marrow) to not step over the edge and sink like a stone.
We turn, instead, summon our courage, and go toward the very source of the tremors, run towards the fire, moving deeper and deeper inward – the way all those long winters have taught us.
Let me become a master of listening, a student of surrender. May a strong and blossoming tree grow from the root of all my fears, a tree with the innate knowledge of how to bend with the wind.
I have much to learn from the ferryman who spends his life taking people across the river, but there is even more to learn from the river itself: how to swell with a flood, how to narrow with a drought, how to be tossed about in a wild current or move with a gentle one, how to be in a place of stillness, how to be at the bottom, the middle, the surface.
May I forget all names, all naming, in order to better contemplate the nameless. May my judgments be altogether cast aside. Let me not torment myself with endless desires. Let me learn how to be with them, so that I can say “Good Morning, My Brothers” and “Good Evening, My Sisters” with compassion, and a simple tenderness.
Let me love hugely and endlessly. Let me become.
A dream of bamboo groves and flickering candles. A dream of sitting in meditation, of the alchemy of bees bringing about the reality of honey, of the heart lifting, of a tormented heart and eyes grown world-weary.
A dream of desire stirring below the navel, of a starry sky like a great milk-swelled breast, of crushing loneliness. A dream of crouching down at the edge of water, of the sound of a bullroarer, of the coyote crossing my path and looking back, and he this night twitching as he dreams of the human crossing his path.
Dreams of the language of rivers, the lessons of mountains, the teachings of trees, the lumbering grace of knowledgeable bears, the voices of birds, the pulse of stillness, the rise and fall of tides, of breath, of prana.
And then the inevitable return. For after the dream, I enter myself again.
What if you yourself didn’t want anything, what if you spent measureless lengths of time just people-watching, ruminating, taking notes of where your mind traveled to, at once engaged yet unaffected, an explorer holding the oar gently as he rows upriver, a tourist observing wide swaths of gold made by the afternoon sun as they spill through the windows of shops while people pass on a street familiar to them. Somewhere deep down inside, these people all know the truth surrounding the illusion of having. No one has anything, there’s nothing to have.
Nothing is fastened. Anything might come undone at any time, and it’s all arbitrary and out of control. Tiger at the window, wolf at the door. At the same time, hummingbirds are drawn to honey suckle, joy is rounded out by sorrow, grief is more thoroughly digested with a little exaltation.
It makes me think of my mother and what it was like, losing her. While I am water – calm and usual at the surface, with everything going on beneath, hidden by murky light – she was fire. She wore her heart on her sleeve most of the time. My mother possessed a tremendous playfulness, tending toward joy, leaning into laughter. But she also had about her a vast, lonesome sorrow. Not the easy sorrow of a bow drawn across the strings of a cello on a dreary morning. An elusive sorrow of wind and bone marrow, the sorrow of long straight highways across the Midwest, the sorrow of a thousand widowed women going up the creaking stairs of a thousand old farmhouses. I can only hope to embrace the two sides as fully as she embraced them.
Sometimes, as I wander through all the rooms in the house of being human, the wandering seems to be the only thing I’m determined to do. I have a habit of giving the living and the dead equal attention, one foot planted firmly in the world while the other extends into the ether, reaching for the unworldly. Listening without ears for some message in the heart of stillness.
May there be an empty space in my hand, where every night a bottle – or some other means to an end – used to be.
An interstitial space between the speck of matter that is me, and the net of endless galaxies, as a minnow to a whale.
Of course the wind will still blow from the north, and I’ll still be listening to the broken record of myself,
but maybe a sound like running water will become loud enough to drown out my thoughts, helping me pay less attention to their static.
Maybe a sound like meat and vegetables frying in a pan will help untangle the knot of my mind’s dialogue, clothe my hearing in the fine silk cloth of meditation.
Helping me to accommodate change, to look willingly at truth with clarity of vision.
To encourage, if only for a moment, a little acceptance.
Outside culture, beneath belief, away from habit, beyond all that marks us as remarkably different or strikingly similar, we are simple humans who arrived here naked. We will leave here without the body we were born into.
We are phosphorescent. We are humming with being.
You can be standing in the dazzle of sun and snow at the same time. You can be standing in the umbra of a tropical downpour, looking through a rainbow under the sun. Either way, silence looks after itself. Noise gathers itself up. Neither one answers to us. May we just rest here.
All is just as it is, here in this life, this suture holding birth and death close, pulling the two garden gates toward each other, drawing the two sides of the hurt in tight together among the stitches.
Here in this world, ever wounded, ever mended.