Slowing in Solitude
After a week at Ravenrock, safely sequestered in off-grid wilds away from discord and furor, I have quieted down internally enough to experience stillness. The natural world has pushed aside the ephemera lurking on my phone. Here, Stillness is enormous. Stillness is an Entity, like a great Greek god-head of wind. It carts my buzz into the clouds, scatters it over the canyon. Finally, I am touched by Stillness, wrapped in Stillness. My change begins.
This time, I got right down to it. I am back to what I had been working on before hit with a tough three years during which time my time was not my own, during which time I had to postpone my large personal inner project, during which time I practiced other things—patience, fortitude, observation while reaping the benefit of previous inner work. I managed to stay relatively sane. I managed to talk myself down off the cliff. Now, this time at Ravenrock, I am back onto seeking. My current goal is modest—to live gently through an entire day. Not haunted, not driven. Just one day…It stems from a pivotal period of organic flow I experienced one September in the mid-90s at Sufi Camp after two continuous months of in-depth meditation practice. At that time, for several months, I was immersed in a balance between inner and outer, guided equally by perception, proprioception, and intuition. I was content, aware, awake, and alive. I return again and again to this lodestar not because I felt good, though I did feel good, but because I felt right. I was in line with forces inside and out. I was myself, not my script. I was not enslaved. I suppose it can be considered enough to have a taste of this in one lifetime, but I am ambitious enough to think that this is the way to live. It is not frivolous to head toward what any human has the right to feel—elegant, noble, real, dignified, in balance.
Time & Speed
My morning reading from May Sarton’s ‘House by the Sea’:
“An artist must go at her own speed. Her whole life is a painful effort to turn herself inside out, and if she gives too much away at the shallow level of social intercourse she may lose the will to attempt a deeper excavation.”
Sarton starts by saying “go at her own speed.” What a pleasant and helpful resonance for me. I need to slow down and not rush, with everything. Simple daily tasks are a good place to start. They are always there. When I proceed methodically, not pushing the tasks to be done any sooner or faster than they are being done, every part of my psyche unwinds and adjusts its crookedness into flowing flows. After that, my innerness which has been tightly clutched, falls effortlessly open. And Sarton’s next point, social interaction makes it too easy to fritter away the edges of a thought before the thought has had time to gestate. Sarton is discussing art in which the artist turns herself inside out, expressing what is harbored in the unconscious or trolls subconsciousness.
As a meditator, I am not mining interiority in order to create. A meditator seeks the ability to live less in self construction and more in moment-by-moment awareness, attuning to an infinite variable alchemy of inner and outer, and this requires a similar curtailing of shallow demands. We need the necessary dollop of social connection, a tiny smatter of seedling ideas, a soupçon of distraction—this is enough to give a break and relief from the efforts to live in presentness. I don’t know why being in the Moment is difficult for humans. Certainly with practice the capacity grows and in growing rights the tippy boat of our existence. The Moment becomes, over time, less a temporary ecstasy squeezed into a tsunami, and instead spreads wide and smooth.
The artist reaches in to bring out. The seeker reaches in to find the wormhole to all universes. Well at least that’s what I always say about seeking. Why do I reach in? Here is what has happened so far:
I have found liberation from my constructed self and from the limits of imagination.
I have found contentment with what it is, not in the sense of being resigned, but in satisfaction and savor.
I have found space, ease, belongingness.
I have found embodiment.
To be continued…
I learn to know myself and manage myself, my highs and lows and needs. I have to be attentive to this to accomplish it. Not having digressive or contradictory information coming from others is important. The companionship of wildlife is enough and the presence of the trees and sun’s grandeur. These comfort me as I quietly, continually encounter my nafs. (Nafs—a fine concept from Sufism. Nafs are our internal forces of self-destruction. Our compulsions. Our delusional habits.)
Savoring spaces and spots—sitting here and there, noticing and feeling them fully—is my practice. Filling with Stillness is my practice. Morning shadows are long and skinny and patchy. Grasses bathe in pale light, a rosy undertone to their withering blades before they go completely wheaty. A bunny stops below the window. I always think of Mom. I imagine her reincarnated with long, soft, acute ears after her human life in which she was mostly deaf. At night, when I sit by the fire in the Barn, shadows hover like fog beneath table and bench. Outside, the dark stands guard. I am afraid as always but a bit less. I stepped out to brush my teeth last night, as I do every night, and I saw the sharp stars. I knew the hour by the position of Orion’s Belt in the east. I felt ancient, like centuries of sailors navigating on the nightwatch.
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