I would have to say that the last couple weeks have not been the best I’ve had. They have probably been the most unpleasant by far for quite a while. It’s not all bad, even so. It’s just that much of the time lately I am confronted with visceral, ugly feelings in myself. I want to push them away but also know they are here to reach me something(s).
One thing about pain, especially the animal level of pain, even emotional, it presents a kind of clarity that cuts through other things that would otherwise seem important. It doesn’t necessarily provide a clear view- it can obscure the the things that you most need to understand. I see the image of Manjushri- the Buddha depicted with a sword, who cuts away delusion. The problem is that if you cling to the delusion, you feel like you are dying.
I cling and let go alternately, back and forth, sometimes see some balance as it swings by.
I am finding challenges in both my personal life and my work that seem to work together to make me feel confused. So, what is there to do with hard feelings? With gut level pain? With uncertainty?
Here is my image that I am cultivating. Instead of pushing away the thing that hurts or causes stress, I try to touch it- feel it in my body and heart, and hold it up to the light. By holding it up to the light I mean that I try to see it’s origins, purpose, meaning. Much of the time I find that it has at it’s roots a kind of lie- or at least a clinging to that which is untrue. It may represent the dying of an act of grasping that has no basis in reality. At the same time, I try to see it with some tenderness- grasping and clinging to things is human and a basis for our grief. Knowing this doesn’t make it less painful. Tenderness may even make it more painful- if I’m really open to the experience.
Then, after holding it tenderly in the light, I try to put it down gently. And let go.
It’s a process that happens many times through my day. It is like the directions on the shampoo bottle- Rinse, repeat. It often provides a few moments of near-joy (I haven’t mastered it enough to get that last part very well but I am inching toward it).
I’m working on a new song. I haven’t written a song in years. I don’t know much about it yet but I feel it coming.
Today my work was satisfying mostly but ended on an overwhelmed note. Then I went to an Interactive Theater workshop (From the Inside Out/ Theater for all). I went because I knew I’d benefit from being around people. Part of me was reluctant- like it was maybe some bad tasting medicine. Like I’m a social misfit and I need to get out and be around people as some kind of treatment. Two odd things happened (or three).
First I got a call from the workshop organizer asking me to pick up someone who couldn’t get to the workshop by herself. The address where she lives is far on the other side of being on my way. I was told that I could say no; I was told that if I didn’t pick her up she would miss the workshop and it was important to her. I agreed. It meant that I had to leave an hour earlier than I would have otherwise. It meant that I would not see my wife when she got home. I went.
About halfway there I got another call saying that I didn’t have to pick her up after all. That someone who lived closer to her could do it. I was already well on my way and I went ahead- driving to the address I was given. When I got there it was familiar. Then I realized that the person I was picking up was someone who I had met and worked with years ago. Someone I had helped. I felt a very positive sense of synchronicity/ congruence talking with her on the way.
At the workshop I ran into another person who I had met at previous events. It’s someone who every time I see him I find out more stuff that we have in common. His name is Tom Widdick and he is sort of famous in the mental health consumer movement as one of the founders of possibly the first modern psychiatric rights group- the Insane Liberation Front, back in 1969 or so. I just met him a few months back but I have since found that we went to the same high school (one that no longer exists), used to sell the same underground newspaper, both have diabetes, both have mental problems, know a bunch of the same people. Tonight I learned that he attends the Bridge City Friends Meeting- a sister community to the Multnomah Monthly Meeting of which I am a member. Wild. “Am I going to the family retreat this month?” he asked. “I’m not sure we can afford to go,” I said.
Oh, yes, this Friday night is MLBM- Mad Liberation by Moonlight. 1 a.m. on KBOO 90.7 or streamed at KBOO.org
All that aside- my latest favorite Rumi poem (I’ve left out the last lines because I am too tired to type it all):
No Room for Form
On the night when you cross the street
from your shop and your house
to the cemetery,
you’ll hear me hailing you from inside
the open grave, and you’ll realize
how we’ve always been together.
I am the clear consciousness-core
of your being, the same in
ecstasy as in self-hating fatigue.
That night, when you escape the fear of snakebite
and all irritation with ants, you’ll hear
my familiar voice, see the candle being lit,
smell the incense, the suprise meal fixed
by the lover inside all your other lovers.
This heart tumult is my signal
to you igniting in the tomb.
So don’t fuss about the shroud
and the graveyard road dust.
Those get ripped open and washed away
in the music of our final meeting.
And don’t look for me in a human shape. I am inside your looking. No room
for form with love this strong.