Resonance: the Great Purring
I sat with Ric, Carleen, and Betsy sipping water with lemon on the patio of Santa Fe Bar & Grill. It was late afternoon. Overhead, a pergola with thick festoons of wisteria shaded us. Across the patio, a waterfall gurgled. We relaxed together after a Dancemeditation workshop. It felt as if we had lifted aside heavy drapes of a circus tent, left the ordinary world, and entered a non-ordinary world. I talked and my mouth made shapes, throat and larynx rolling pitches on the exhale into words that eddied out with the dithering humminess of a Winnie-the-Pooh variety. My mind sat beside the waterfall where a little girl picked up a leaf and dropped it again and again into the infinitely changing burble. My body purred.
I say that my body purred, as if she generated purring, but really my flesh was inertial and open, and into this purring poured. I resonated with the vibrance in space and time that ordinarily passes through and around me unnoticed. It was suddenly like having night vision and seeing a whole new world. Forces and flows wound their fingers in my hair as I spilled outside my typical filigree of thought and feeling. I was barely contained in skin yet wasn’t uncomfortable. The sensation was uncommon. I remember saying to my friends that writing about a book about the Dancemeditation work—my current endeavor—is a reflective process; as scrivener, I recall and word what I know to be true, yet I am not in the depths. I cannot feel the purring, because writing is a creature of my mind and my mind, just by its nature, stops the purring in my body.
Burning and Plunging
I read the writing of Sufis from the past as well as Sufis in the present who describe their spiritual openings as ‘burning and plunging.’ Some mystics suffer or are expansive types, painting tales of their mysticism with wide, colorful brushes. Others are plagued by an inability to articulate; their words start clearly enough, then unravel into elliptical, poetical jumbles as what they are trying to say slips out of their grasp. Almost none of them have described purring. Purring is my body’s way. The way an entire cat vibrates. Purring occupies me, loud and soft, wide and subtle, freeing me from my mind’s relentlessness. But occasionally I have had use for the ideas of burning and plunging, not because of pain or fear, but because of fire’s purifying touch. There is something in the hot purity and deep submergence which catches the flip from the ordinary world into the Other Worlds.
In a workshop, the breathing and movement is a fire. It dances and rouses and cooks, burning off coverings, like those strange desert plants that hunker for many seasons until a blistering heat or wildfire cracks their shells so they spew thousands of seeds. The breathing and movement ignite a mysterious Sufic kernel and crack my crust. Shell-less, I plunge in the Moment, which is a bonfire and an ocean. Shell-less, I resonate through and through. The phrase ’burning away impurities’ is often used, as if we need improvement, and I don’t normally subscribe to this as it seems like too much of a falsely humble agenda, yet I do feel burnt flakes of me—stiffness, and the scars of identifying thought form—snatched into the wind. The skin of my snake. It is neither pleasant, nor sweet, nor painful, nor bitter. In a few days I may ask in reflection, ‘what growth’ and ‘why?’.
Two days later, I am quite tired. I feel unbound, faintly sick, and very fragile, my body enormous and spongy. I am inside out. A great deal of me whirls in an invisible field while my ordinariness sits in a chair watching a small bird—a pewee—consider a small seed. My being swells into space, comes to rest beside the pewee, and I feel the pewee’s slender claws tracing. I dissolve into the places between what I cannot see…
In the world but not of it. At one time, this might have been an instruction to detach from the manic daily grind. At that time, I lived and worked carrying a wild secret in my heart; I was a seeker in a world that seemed unconcerned with seeking. Now, I feel like a contrarian; rather than detach, I enter deeply in. I live in this world as an ordinary person. Periodically, I open the rigid walls of ordinary consciousness to live and breathe in the manifold, non-ordinary Other Worlds. A papillon liquifying ensues. Writing this with the limitation of language, I have no choice but to use the words ‘I’ and ‘my’, but in the experience ‘I’ and ‘my’ step to the side and bow, readily giving up their shape to the Moment. Deep inside incarnation, ‘me’ dissolves. All dimensions are present. Everything is see-through. In a way I stop seeing, which is itself a natural barrier.
I wonder, right now, about primordiality, of the creatures so sheer they are barely differentiated from their surroundings. Barely structured, and almost without architecture. I remember as a child gathering a bioluminescent comb jellyfish from the curl of a wave and feeling its oval-ness slosh gently in my palm; then it melted, the delicate lavender lines threading its flanks separated, its shape full of ocean water disintegrated. I was dismayed. My jellyfish! I wondered if it felt pain, this fragile creature. I hadn’t known it was so delicate. It slid between my fingers back into the night sea.
I am like that in reverse. When in an ordinary state, my dissolution into the oceanic All falls away into forgetfulness and my walls of separation return. The opening closes. But longing for this unity hangs like a chimera everywhere, at the edge of every breath. I am in the ordinary world but always with a sense of the Otherworldliness. Then I go into my practice, breathe and move and bring down my walls again. Really, how it All seems to me is that there is nothing but this world and the great joy is to see, feel, and know its magnitude, though what any of us can know is so little of what it is. Even when, if, possibly, humans can manage to survive into a distant future where we achieve complete knowledge, that knowledge will not diminish the miraculousness of creation. Spiritual practice will bring us to the bowing of Witnessing.
A week later I travel to Corvallis, OR where my friends, Andrea and Audrey, have organized a weekend retreat through the OSU Contemplative Studies Initiative. This is my second year here and I see many familiar faces as I enter Mary River Grange Hall. I have chosen secretly to push hard into Sufi practices—a test, to see what I need to do next. Because I have wondered if I am going too slowly in my heart these days, not pushing the energetic foci enough, because we are running low on time. We are in a hard era. So I push in hard. A lot of Rhythmic Breath Dance. I feel high and contracted, uncomfortable. The last morning spreads open. I find myself moving timelessly, my body mending small rifts that have needed some attention; I am deep inside. After, there is magic. After, there is openness and purring. Purring. There I am again. Resonant.
My work and writing are sponsored by Dervish Society of America (DSA), a nonprofit 501-C3 organization dedicated to the Path of embodied mysticism. DSA provides opportunities for personal development, exploratory inquiry into embodied spirituality, and community connection through practice, service, and performance. DONATIONS are tax-deductible.