Landscapes of Sensations
The humming of a compressor by the library three houses over keeps penetrating the outer layers of my consciousness, traveling straight to a raw spot all too close to center. It is more than a humming – overtones and undertones and felt vibration, in my head mostly. I am working at my desk and periodically I notice the discomfort this hum causes. It hurts. I complain: when is this going to stop. It’s too much! Immediately followed by my own unsolicited “spiritual” advice: I shouldn’t have a reaction to this. This is aversion. A liberated being is not bound by craving but welcomes things as they are.
I have become keenly aware lately how I constantly push myself to do things differently and better. No wonder I get tired and depressed. Not only does the world not do my bidding – I don’t do my bidding either and I fall far short of my own expectations! I constantly demand of myself to be different, to be present, to be kind, to be efficient – rarely do I let myself just be. I can apparently not be trusted and need constant supervision. I live in a correctional facility – skillfully camouflaged as it may be to look like a sophisticated Buddhist temple. I carry it with me like a snail does her house. But a snail’s house is not built of concrete walls, surrounded by hidden barbed wire and staffed with obnoxious guards!
And though I have become somewhat of an escape artist – no wonder! – I keep getting thrown back into the hole. One thing that keeps me locked up in this penitentiary is the idea that life is about me and about doing good and growing and becoming a better person. But have I become the spiritual master I think I need to be – or have I merely mastered the art of policing myself?
I’m always looking for meaning in everything. Just like the people I hear saying: we are here to learn.
Nothing against learning but – really!?
Life is more than a classroom. I feel increasingly bored with that notion – though I am apparently in the business of helping people who also want to learn and become better persons.
Could we stop this? For moments at least?
I love to move, I love to play and interact with the earth’s pull on this chair
and I really enjoy seeing you touching the floor under your naked feet.
I love to feel this breath gently moving through me.
I love to carry that bucket of milk for Sarah.
And mucking I enjoy. That goat pee is pungent.
The other day I walked through the woods, pestering myself with endless questions about the meaning of life and why I haven’t figured it all out yet, and when I would – and when I would finally manage to be one with everything, at which point everything would be perfect.
What a relief, when I suddenly heard myself say: Life has no meaning!
Finally I could just be, along with everything else, in this mysterious, beautiful and dreadful world.
Moments of sheer freedom – until I heard that voice saying: But!
But this time, I was awake for it and saw: this ‘but’ is but another miracle among the many colorful leaves gently tumbling through the autumn air, sailing towards the welcoming forest pool.
Together we practice Sensory Awareness, we meditate, we move, we are mindful. All in a relatively futile attempt to finally be good enough and please – our parents, the universe, god, who knows – most of all we fail to please ourselves, to measure up to our own image of who and how we should be. How did we get in this mess? This is not your fault, I hear Wes Nisker say and I smile. I love Wes.
Sensory Awareness, moving, mindfulness, spiritual practice, to use another trendy term, is much more than achieving something and I have less and less interest in helping you – or myself, for that matter, to become a better person. I am forever puzzled by our sheer existence, by the raindrops plopping into the puddle outside my window. Why is there anything rather than nothing? There are these moments when I can ask such questions not because I need an answer but as an expression of wonder and affection.
I love “working” with you in this way. Being.
Landscapes of sensations through what we call shoulders. What is this? Someone writing this blog says: my shoulders are aching. Maybe – but what a miracle: sensation, consciousness.
The humming of the compressor has stopped.
A breath. Where did it come from? Now it’s gone.
Addendum: In response to this post, my dear friend and clowning mentor, Ann Willcutt, sent me part 7 of Mary Oliver’s amazing poem Rain. Oliver’s choice of the word ‘purpose’ may be a more accurate expression for what I mean with ‘meaning’.
Titled The Forest, Mary Oliver’s poem ends like this:
Where life has no purpose,
and is neither civil nor intelligent,
to smell like the bodies
At the back of the neck
the old skin splits.
The snake shivers
but does not hesitate.
He inches forward.
He begins to bleed through
Thank you, Ann – and thank you, Mary.