Delving into personal intimacy
that weaves in and out of a poem
written in 250 BCE.
Before Knowing You
I yearn to write lines of love
of you adoring something
as how I clean my teeth:
beholding me through the mirror,
my back resting on your fortress chest
my spare hand stroking
the warm forest arm slanting up
through the valley
of my well explored breasts;
a funny smile,
obstructed by the drawbridge of my toothbrush,
as we marvel at how
we both see reflected
in the other’s eyes
the flecks of life
glistening in our own.
bringing empty, stony echoes
into this chasm of lonely wilderness.
I walk through the valley of death, poetically, internally. You did it for real, in California, with your ceremony in the desert, allowing your beautiful high, your deep connection. Sunrise sees you drinking in the red of the sky after taking medicine. You. All alone. Beautiful you, young you, walking, lithe like, through the desert. Slithering snake. I bet you were naked. I imagine you in a space where god becomes like man for the sake of man and man becomes like god for the sake of god. In my mind you are a moving Greek myth bending to become a flower, to dance your minute delicacy around its giant stem as it grows dancing light into your heart.
And then eventually the come down, back to the tent, the winds picking up. Zipping up, coming in from all that expanse, faced with the confines of canvas, forced to go within in a different way, alone now, disconnected from that other world.
I remember being startled when Prof. Amador Vega said that the pain of being a god for a moment of eternity is in the return and realising we are not god: the pain of our humanity. I can see you, through time and space, sat back in your flayed human skin, raw rubbed by sand and sun, feeling denser now, separated from humanity. Feeling small now after the ever expansiveness of space, feeling the terrifying immensity of the skies suddenly so far away, sensing the beating heart of the world that had been so tangible before, now dimmed, hiding back behind the flowers. Brutally forced out of power, out of the expansion of being everything, to return to small.
I feel you aching for people not present. You are left only with You. Nothing but you and your beating heart, getting faster, and your drained energy seeping into a hard desert floor under a flimsy, dog-eared camping mattress, accompanied by nothing but your breath; wondering how long it will continue. When will it stop? How long is a night? Where will you go? The desolate desert winds mirroring your soul. Whirlwinds of thoughts bringing ramshackle fears into your dream world.
The void slowly opens her devouring orifice.
Under the twilight skies you desperately pack up, wind whirling sand into the crevasses of your skin, your gear, your soul, and you hike back to your little, fragile car. To drive. To calm the mind. Drive. Looking for friends. Drive. Looking for company, looking for anything but this emptiness. Drive. Hours of long straight highways, the dotted lines on the dusty road coming into the windscreen like stars in a space ship.
Hypnotising yourself out of that dark fear, running, running, running away. Wanting to know what it is all about, too afraid to find out.
You tell me years later, two decades later, mid forties, that you understood something more. Before going into the desert you’d asked to know direction, you’d asked to be shown what to do, who to be. You’d asked for guidance and it had been given to you, if only you could have heard it: allow yourself to be vulnerable, allow yourself to sit in nothingness, to be alone in meaninglessness. Be brave and walk through the valley of death, alone in the dark of the deepest night, without even the stars to guide your way; to have the courage to be alone within yourself, to sit in the confines of that tent, to sit in yourself, and face the screams, face the gargoyles of your fears and walk through them to the other side; to withstand aloneness and the fear of being alive, to know that you can, so as to never have to run away – ever again – so as to not base a lifetime on running from fears, running from the nothingness, from crazily grasping onto sands of meaning as they slip through your fingers and you scream for time to stop running through your being.
But you didn’t.
You tell me all this as I cry down the phone. I have been alone for so long; so long I have been forced to make company only with myself: years of meaninglessness, of non-producing, of waking day by day with nothing to do, with no reason, drowning in the fear of worthlessness. How many hour-long moments have I gazed through the glazed over glass of my windowed eyes, blank walls my mirror, the aspects of my mind my only companions, forced into conversations with the within?
I have developed relationships with trees, taking me to a place where seconds take years, yet I am invisible because I move a billion times too fast. I move at the speed of human, where I cannot see the immense beauty of their dance, for a step takes one of my lifetimes. I have been dragged down, kicking and screaming, into the beauty of presence, into my own beauty that comes up from the presence of the world.
In the Beginning of Beginnings was the Void of Void, the Nameless.*
I scream holding onto my name, which dislodges off its hook. I want it to fit; I want my name for myself. I scream, a child clinging to a broken toy. Irreparable, this distance cannot be returned. I have stepped too far and seen too much to claim ignorance. I must continue.
Into Nameless, without body, without form, into where this one Being gives all the power to exist. The flower is my cousin, the moon my mother, in this loneliness I become all of humanity, leaving behind all that I am not.
My presence becomes unwrapped from its covers of meaningless meaning; my presence is allowed to breathe.
I am in the first breath. Is this a second awakening?
A baby breathes her first breath and timed with the stars, with the moon’s gravitational pull, with the energy of the sun, becomes unique. When did I first breathe a second time? Who have I left to become who I always was?
Dionysus was born a second time out of a thigh.
Outside in the far distance I still have my body. I recognise the hand, but not the sensations. They are constantly birthing. Eternally anew. I think about all those times I do not recognise the details of my face in the bathroom mirror, new lines, my eyes constantly changing their vision. They staring into me, asking me to open as I cling still, afraid of presence. Why afraid?
I remember bliss. How many people have experienced it? Do the flowers live in it? Are we unaware of it like fish cannot see water? Would the flowers be shocked to feel what we humans want to feel, as we endlessly repeat fears, anger, jealousy in some vain attempt to control life and keep everything still. We seem to do anything but allow ourselves to see presence in the void of our hearts. Why do we struggle so hard to push away from all this meaninglessness and so blind ourselves to our true beauty, our own true selves? Why are we so unable to let go even as we are dragged through life backwards, clinging desperately onto the monstrous shapes of ignorant fears?
‘I should have stayed in the tent’, you say.
He who obeys Nature returns through Form and Formless to the Living,
And in the Living
Joins the unbegun Beginning. *
I awaken to my presence, sat in this nothingness of a day, beside these white painted walls, behind the pane of glass, watching rain pour, watching trees dance; too still for any thoughts, emotionally exhausted, unable to feel, to think. I lie, my body a stone, as if on medicine. Movement zero.
I shudder. Is this death?
I shudder, panic, feel strangled by the close confines of the meaninglessness of my life. My mind screams suicidal thoughts in silence. I have no place to go. Birds soar; I feel my inescapable heaviness.
I can no more. I unzip this tent of self constriction. I leave my room and go walk in the rain.
The woods find me. Their boughs are the embrace that keeps me from madness. These are my family. I slink to their feet, feel wrapped in the curves of their trunk. In the out-breath I feel their green soothing. I slow down again, back into the rhythm of life.
This is beauty. Far away from an art gallery, I am surrounded by true art. I think of fairies. Moss green curves in the interplay of trunks and earth, the intricate work in the strokes of branches, interweaving patterns of delicate vision. My head is supported by a loving trunk, my body by sub-stance, by the mother of all. Matter matters. It is meaninglessness that is meaningless.
The joining is Sameness. The sameness is Void. The Void is infinitive.
The bird opens its beak and sings its note
And then the beat comes together again in Silence. *
I hear my breath, a river of calm, caressing my body, allowing air that was not me, to come in, what was not mine, to be touched by me, to be changed, to be warmed by my presence, to become me. I cannot hold onto this gift, but return it, return myself, to the one breath that moves the patterns between the branches.
At the end of one breath, a slight pause: I hear silence.
The next is quieter. Each breath dying down into a deeper place, softer, harmonious.
Until it would seem my body is so relaxed it is not breathing. I hear it from a distance. A complete openness in my belly to all that is, digesting silently as my presence plays communion with Presence.
I realise I am:
My body is vibrating, the heavy solidity lifting away.
My breath circulating freely, silently, lovingly.
I am balancing on the edge, becoming fully alive. All that I was only moments ago is dead.
I tingle. I am Joy.
I feel the tree, breathing into me. It kisses me.
I would stay here forever.
Nature and the Living meet together in Void.
Like the closing of the bird’s beak
After its song. *
Imagine if every human felt this…how life would change…I feel myself slinking down, opening.
I fall into a womb. Above I feel my body taking on all responsibility. I surrender. Once I get out of the way, my muscles unspring returning to their natural state. In this deeper relaxation, Peace flows.
The psyche knows to heal itself.
When ‘I’ am not.
My lips smile
down here all makes sense.
A still sense of a soft diffused light called Love.
Why would I ever block this out?
Is this my presence? The presence nourishes me, gives me strength to show myself, to grow into my own, to shed my bark and become a supple nymph in the river of breath.
Peace seeps into my body, bones relax.
I sink further,
on the edge of being able to stay awake as I awaken to this:
I let myself become one with it.
All is foolishness, all is unknown, all is like
The lights of an idiot, all is without mind!
Fears push on my bladder. I know that old trick. It is not real.
To obey is to close the beak and fall into Unbeginning.
I fall into myself. Soft velvet.
Time dissolves, meaningless.
This is all there is, this is all I am.
As I become smaller, going further and further within to who I am, I expand out into all that Is.
I feel myself as one
Swimming in the see-through-ness between inside and out, I remember myself.
I sink in my own simplicity.
How could I ever have forgotten?
Time slows into the Eternal.
I am filled.
Through the silences I hear car, wind, birds, the rustle of animals. There is another world.
I don’t want to return.
I feel the father, my thoughts, coming to pick me up from school…coming to take me back to the land of the living dead, to the meaninglessness, to words and ideas and the projections of mind.
I feel the bark of the mother softly push me onwards, telling me that I am. I can deal with living in her, in her material, I can deal with the hard flakes of deathful unconsciousness gnawing on the edges of words, I can deal with demons that fling themselves at me, my own or others. I can deal with it all.
I can separate with my sword of discernment, I have the protection of the father now, of feeling my presence, of the Spirit. All I need do is return and allow myself to be met, allow myself to be seen, only my own dragons can be dominated by me, only my own world can be healed by me.
I cannot heal anywhere else but in myself.
Thoughts are coming in faster now. Are they insight or poison?
I think of the minute doses of poison that can heal. I think of my responsibility to experiment into the right dose that is healing for me, that will open me up within and without, and also know the dose that will bring me down, into a world of depression, of becoming closed down, lost in self-referencing mind-stuff, of being closed in the circle. In-firm.
I am coming out of this deep wellness of being, back up to the dreaded surface.
I open my eyes. Breathe out deeply. Am greeted by green beauty. A balm for this deep wound I have again come out of. Seeking the healing, far within.
I stand shakily. Head rush. Knees ache from inactivity, I take a tentative step and continue onwards.
there is a place
full of light.
It strokes me back
I float in hope.
Too soon the ephemeral eternity
turns to dust in my hands;
I am left only with me.
* Thomas Merton’s translation of Chuang Tzu’s poem, ‘In the End is My Beginning.’ 250 BCE.