Meditation on Meditation: A Rhapsody

Always I long for something other than here and now, yet such a longing according to traditional and contemporary spiritual trends is a kind of illness. Be here now and all that spume. Lovely but impossible ideal, I’m afraid. Even prepping a class, I cannot help but picture those student faces, swallowing my program, my ideas even, lifting their eyes to lines of prose or pen to paper…

Drake Snoozing (Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, Portland, Oregon, March 2014)

Drake Snoozing (Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, Portland, Oregon, March 2014)

Now is as empty as a pocket I futilely strain to fill with the coins of my eyes and ears, with my whole being…

There is meditation formalized and meditation that serves the purpose at hand—one way or the other an altered, relaxed state of mind that allows the other, the here and now, to intercede on the past-and-future-occupied mind….

I have watched—I have become—waves crashing, one upon the other, spilling up the beach toward my feet, felt the disorienting grate of upward rush and backward wash, been nearly thrown to the sand at the height of this conflictive coming and going merely abandoning my eyes to this other world, this other possibility (for all possibilities exist in reality, if only for a moment in the mind)….

Vast Sea and Rocks (Cannon Beach, Oregon, March 2014)

Vast Sea and Rocks (Cannon Beach, Oregon, March 2014)

One might say total abandonment to reality may bring the caesura of reality, certainly caesura of consciousness of reality. Total abandonment to sight and sound bring the unknown, the frightening, as for the cat for the first time thrown into an alien world, for the first time set down on the beach beside the thundering waves, all bent-eared and wide-eyed, tensed to avoid a sensed end of his life.

Red Sea Contemplation (Cannon Beach)

Red Sea Contemplation (Cannon Beach)

And I have lost myself in the flight of a seagull in my reverie, lost myself in casting off my own contrived reality that I superimpose on the true underlying reality that exists independent of me, independent of all “conscious” creatures. Lost myself in the seagull’s wings, in wind-veer and gust-loft, become those yellow eyes scanning the broken carapace of a crab, the starfish rotting on the beach below. Been to the center, the beginning, of the universe, a cerebral cosmologist, to the Big Bang on the verge of Banging Big, the Big Bang Banged and blasting outward, been to cell and molecule, to atom and electron, to quark and back. Infinity is no stranger to the childlike mind.

Raindrop Circles (Seattle, May 2104)

Raindrop Circles (Seattle, May 2104)

And I have held your heart beating in my hand. But unintentionally, for how can I sort through what occurs intentionally, and what unintentionally, in or to my mind? Who can say I thought this or that thought on purpose and know for sure it didn’t merely happen of its own accord, that my every thought is not merely the cresting of the wave of all thoughts that have risen and rushed forward in and with and all around me and the whole of thinking, of mutating humanity. Or finally to finally conclude and forever as long as I can hold the conclusion that I know I will a thought independent and exclusive of all other thoughts—a unique thought! That reality is not merely my greatest, most complex meditation on nothingness, that all I sense and feel and think, I only think I sense and feel and think! I only think I think!

Waves of Clouds (Washington Coast,  April, 2014)

Waves of Clouds (Washington Coast,
April, 2014)

Still, how can I question all I am and do and know and have? Ah, the QUESTION is all! Knowing, as big, as small, as sure, as flimsy, as up for amendment or as momentarily stable as it is, is vanity. To know, to think one knows, is to lack humility while to question is to lie steadfast beneath the exploding stars and widen the eyes. And to name is a feeble attempt to get on top of, to get under our feet, that which crushes us beautifully. No matter how critical I become of the world, of others, of myself, I must make way for the blossom to bloom, the colors to mix and re-emerge, to reinvent themselves, wherever they are, within or without.

Twig Entangled Night City (Seattle, February, 2014)

Twig Entangled Night City (Seattle, February, 2014)

A marquee to the south ripples light in a window to the north. What need have I of a first order of reality? The speakers have lips, the lips another’s song, the song itself a tiny echo of yet another reality. What a surprising luxury, flesh! Still, the sun becomes a thought, the moon a peaceful dream.

Moonlit House (Washington Coast, March 2104)

Moonlit House (Washington Coast, March 2104)

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Mystics and Membranes

Words are strange sound symbols we can’t live with and can’t live without. They are and they aren’t. They bridge us over to one another and they block our way. We forever hazard mistaking the word for the thing, solidifying a word or idea into a specific form or image, making us forget the mutability of all things—that the universe is forever changing and words today don’t mean what they meant yesterday or what they’ll mean tomorrow—let alone in a thousand years. Words are life rings to which we cling; attire with which we clothe our psychic bodies; lances, shields, and armor with which we go into daily battle.

Rumi ( Persian, 1207-1273)

Rumi ( Persian, 1207-1273)

When language falls away, like a veil or mist, we’re faced with the sheer fact of the universe, the naked world around us, harsh and beautiful. To arrive at pure presence in pure reality, bursting through the membranes of our delusions (to suggest Zen satori here), if such an achievement is possible, is to have undertaken the longest, most difficult journey to a place that, ironically, is all around and within us. This view presumes that the universe exists exclusive of our awareness of it, exclusive of the language we use to describe, even supersede, it.

William Blake (English, 1757-1827)

William Blake (English, 1757-1827)

Language may be the most troublesome membrane we grapple with in an effort to break through to reality. The word “delusion” itself, in referring to the perceptibility of one’s mind, may get the reader or listener pointed in the right direction, but that one word alone may not suffice to describe the specific nature of a delusion, which might be a function of mental instability, stubborn belief, psychedelic drugs, or of misconstruing of words for reality itself.

Emily Dickinson (American, 1830-1886)

Emily Dickinson (American, 1830-1886)

Thus mystics, poets, and metaphors are born. The mystic poet who merges with or intuits the deep nature of reality and who returns to tell about it may return with little more than words to describe or allude to the experience. These words may do little more than hint at reality while creating a new reality, thus pointing more to the mind of the mystic than to ultimate reality. The mystic may have been in touch with reality, may still be tainted or inspired by it, but once the mystic poet begins to place words one after the other, during later moments of inspiration, new experiences occur and new realities are born.

Rainer Maria Rilke (German, 1875-1926)

Rainer Maria Rilke (German, 1875-1926)

Language is perhaps our most dangerous friend, since new collections of words may subvert our experience of reality. Still, such language, regardless of its failure to take us to the heart of an exclusive reality, may seduce the reader into strange, beautiful, soul-altering experience and enliven the mind in a potentially mind-deadening world. As long as words—tough, inspiriting, slippery words—keep us on our toes and take us to new and challenging places, our picture of reality deepens and expands. Reality depends on us for that—to make sound symbol journeys into the intimate body of the unknown.

Theodore Roethke (American, 1908-1963)

Theodore Roethke (American, 1908-1963)