Why We Practice

It’s a sunny but frosty early February morning here at the edge of the continent. After the previous stormy days and nights, the brightness now is remarkable. Amazingly, we are nearly twenty percent into the pivotal century where everything everywhere changes. I am standing by a long stretch of grass while my little dog is completing her business. People are beginning to emerge from their dwellings. Americans are some of the more violent and aggressive representatives of a violent and aggressive species, and even more so when they enter their automobiles and speed off on their missions. Gender once mattered in that respect, but apparently no longer. Everyone seems to be on the verge of murder, set off by the least annoyance — so much pervasive unhappiness, so much disconnection from source!

Wisely, my dog has already made herself invisible. I try to follow suit, but am only about sixty percent successful, due no doubt to my laziness in effort and concentration. Some of the angry ones spot me, and I can tell they are thinking disturbing thoughts. There is a desperate kind of frenzy right behind their eyes. Despite their clever masks and cosmetic disguises, it still bleeds through. I send them love, but often it is mixed with pity, repulsion, and a trace of dismay. Clearly, I still have a lot to learn about judgment, about not allowing the head to habitually sabotage the heart. It’s the arrogance of a view still tainted by the dualism of self vs others, which persists on increasingly subtler levels regardless of any epiphanies to the contrary. The natural and dominant human tendency is towards separation based on perpetual grasping and avoidance. It is only when the soul light is able to penetrate the conditioned armor of hard-heartedness from the inside that true recognition and subsequent softening can happen. It’s why we practice.

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Explorers

In the course of the experience, even poetry became superfluous. Art = artifice = artificial. Emotions, stripped of their context and associations, became more profound, and yet no longer subject to the need or desire for verbal elaboration or personal identification. Still, the motive to communicate persisted. The human is a talking animal, expressing a sense of one’s self and relationship to life through every possible communication modality.

At the root of all creativity, there is the urge towards expression. Even a hermit might turn away from the common crowd, seek solitude in the mountains among the white clouds, but still leave behind testimonies in poems and treatises, even if they were written on leaves and bark, even if they were inscribed on rain drops and meandering brooks. The articulation itself is a form of ongoing self-exploration, and whatever else we may be, we are all explorers here.

In any case, it seemed now as if the writer had slipped out of his own life. He had become more and more the silence. The silence and his life continued on for a while in a parallel trajectory, but then the life inevitably branched out in its own direction, perhaps for its duration, while the silence remained motionless and omnipresent, like space itself. Aware space.

Objects, cloud-like creations of space, appear and disappear, but space is not altered. The objects themselves, the totality of the universal manifestation, flash in and out of perception. For example. consider ice cubes, which are temporary, denser forms of water. In the same way, objects arise in the midst of the sea of silence, as relative expressions of the silence, but do not endure as any specific formation. It is all completely fluid. Space is always falling through itself.

This silence is not an absence of sound. It pertains regardless of sound or soundlessness. It is vital, dynamic, and yet the deeper one comes to rest in it, or as it, the less fascination there remains in the mechanical or automatic elaboration of its various life-level manifestations. What supplants the habitual attention patterns is a kind of natural detachment, as if one has gradually lost interest in the movie’s narrative, and instead just “spaces out” into an impersonal trance of awake indifference. “Awake”, because it is not a sleep, not a fog of unconsciousness, but mindful. Without a subject or object of attention, there is just pure awareness, unqualified sky-like presence.

The movie plays itself out, regardless of whether or not the audience has drifted out of the theater. Nevertheless, how different now is the fate of its dramatic characters to the various passing personas in last night’s vaguely-remembered dream? Aren’t they all simply temporary expressions of one’s own self, and so worthy of the kind of compassion one would extend to oneself, even in the midst of the virtual frailties which inform the transient package of humanity we represent while incarnated here in this inexplicable realm?

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

That big moon dropped below the horizon.
Sun’s rising on the other side. Clear sky
gradually turns from black to blue.
Flocks of birds pass overhead.

Plato said we originally had two heads,
four arms, four legs, but some angry god
split us in two. We’ve been lonely ever since.

We’re all searching for our other half —
that explains a lot. Mazie hands me a plate
with a toasted english muffin, smeared
with blueberry jam. It’s perfect!

It no longer matters to me that there are
so many dimensions beyond my ken,
that vast mysterious forces prevail
which defy my comprehension.

I’m content to just ramble on, punctuating
the timeless silence with bemused nonsense
while my dog stirs sleepily in my lap, god-like.

She’s unconcerned that people everywhere
identify themselves with conflicting beliefs
which render them mad and war-like.

She has a little toy which she sometimes
pounces on and then furiously shakes
back and forth until it squeaks.

We both laugh out loud!

 

2

Morning Ritual

At first light she jumps on my chest,
pawing with her delicate little mouse feet
and wagging her tail in canine urgency.

I roll sleepily from bed and quickly dress,
familiar by now with the morning routine.

I throw on a coat and slip on my shoes,
Mazie leashes our darling little jumping bean,
and out the door and into the winter chill we plunge.

A rich rosy dawn, and flock after flock of crows
are on the wing right over our heads, loudly cawing
beneath a sharp sliver of moon in the dark blue expanse.

When she finishes, she runs over and looks up at me,
indicating her readiness to be lifted and carried back
to the warm blanket where she can snuggle again,

Once we’re relaxing back in the happy place,
I cradle her walnut head with my right hand, while
with my left thumb I gently rub her little chest.

She responds with a big yawn, closing her eyes
in pure pleasure as I massage her tiny form
and whisper soft endearments.

When I stop, she gazes up at me with such a look
of tender guileless love my heart melts. No translation
required, the reason for everything — not other than this.

 

 

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New Year Notes

Sitting on the bed, back propped against pillows, I’m inhaling asthma medicine through the plastic mouthpiece of a nebulizer (breathing machine). We’ve just changed the sheets on the bed to a fresh set — light sea mist green, covered with a new microfiber blanket of royal blue. Since the fire that destroyed our home and town, we’ve had to replace everything. We’re truly starting all over again — first with the basics like food and shelter, chairs and a bed, then with necessities of life in this age, such as communication devices like a cell phone and computers to re-connect us to our friends and family on the internet, as well as granting access to critical resources.

Mazie is in the living room with our tiny tot, the delightfully diminutive Bugarella. They’re wrapped together in a warm snuggy blanket gifted to us by a dear friend. There has been such generosity showered on us by so many gracious and compassionate souls, we are overwhelmed with gratitude. As one might expect, the calamity we’ve endured has had a profoundly transformative effect on us, and the ripples from its traumatic aftermath continue to reveal vivid aspects of the human experience that we might otherwise have only grasped intellectually. Themes of empathy, tolerance, and heart-opening have characterized much of this experience, as well as surrender, acceptance, and paradoxically, determination and focused intent in the face of physical and emotional exhaustion exacerbated by age, chronic illness, and the sheer enormity of the daunting challenges encountered since the worst fire disaster in our State’s history destroyed our forest sanctuary.

Now I’m looking into the bathroom from my position on the bed. The bright morning light reflects off the mirror over the sink. On the sink, various hygienic items are assembled in no particular order — a can of shaving cream, sticks of deodorant, tooth brushes in a ceramic jar, some moisturizing lotion. All ordinary stuff, but just now, they transmit the essential truth, the unspeakable mystery, and tears begin to stream down my face. I can’t articulate the absolute perfection of all of this, this moment in timelessness. I understand that we came here to enjoy the human experience in all of its innumerable forms. I recognize that consciousness is inseparable from experience, and that I am just this fullness, as well as its emptiness. However, none of that matters. Whatever I think or know means nothing. I cannot account for this feeling/being with mental constructs, nor does it really matter. My willfulness has evaporated in the light of an immediately vital revelation. When the verbal mind drops away, there is nothing to say.

Now I am seated in a new chair in the living room with my Beloveds, and we are lounging in the freshness of the bright morning light pouring through the window. Outside, the wind is whipping the trees in the courtyard, and I watch as the leaves flutter and the branches sway. Mind wants to add something, out of habit I suppose. There is nothing to add. Perhaps later I could make up some lovely nonsense about one immense being with a trillion trillion eyes, but that’s an unnecessary embellishment from the domain of the devil of poetry, and the real poetry needs no embellishment, no words, or thousands of words, who knows? The wind, the tree, the witness, the light — all flashing brightly in the midst of infinity, of incomprehensible transience. It’s all a kind of music — enchanting, ungraspable. My hands open up. These words pour out onto an electronic page: Happy New Year to all!

The Brilliant Dark Sound

If there is some reason why we still persist
as a species, despite our utter wretchedness
and rude affront to the unfabricated sensibilities
of all other feeling beings, it may be because
we can sometimes make that resonant sound
which pierces the warm emotional membrane
of divinity, reducing the higher gods themselves
to that rare blissful state of weeping heartbreak.

Tonight I see a star, I see a planet. It is moving
closer. It is a lone light moving in a pitch-black sky.
This sky is nothing but a brilliant darkness. This
darkness has a black lacquer shine. It is a dark
radiance moving towards me, moving closer —
breathing, matching my own breath, making
the sound, a resonant cry from my own heart,
my dark heart which makes everything shine.

I am the weeping god, higher than the sky,
higher than any star of darkness, star of light.
I am like a sounding planet moving closer, closer
to myself, even though it is dark, an enormous
dark, so brilliantly dark that I make that
piercing cry. I make it.

This pure darkness of myself is filled with star-like
planet beings, all sounding simultaneous with
this one dark thought in the immaculate radiance
of a moonless night, all deeply sorrowful, so sorrowful
the gods themselves are weeping blissfully. What persists
is just this echoing sound, the sound of myself, a cry
without words, rippling on through the pristine dark.

Notes from the Road

Asphalt pavement glistens in the grey morning drizzle.
Puddles from last night’s rain have filled the pot holes,
making little lakes for microscopic beings to thrive
and die in a temporary universe of cool moisture.

I am some kind of drifter now, bereft of any tether,
moving like a vague thread of dawn mist across
a virtual landscape of light and shadows,
a stranger to my own mind.

The past is just an empty box, fragments of memories
mere tumbled figments of some restless dream scattered
behind me like refuse thoughtlessly tossed from a moving
car, playthings of a lonely wind, littering a ghostly highway.

All locations are imaginary, how foolish to believe
there is anything we can possess, any enduring place
we can call ours — our home, our things, our life.
Freedom is terrible, yet bondage is worse.

What I am is neither free nor bound. I am this
floating bit of moisture, nearly unseen, unknown
to myself, a distant heartbeat sounding in the void,
a tiny throb of fleeting life, a gift to an impossible god.