Ode to the Present
This present moment, smooth as a wooden slab, this immaculate hour, this day pure as a new cup… we caress the present; we cut it according to our magnitude, we guide the unfolding of its blossoms. It is living, alive — it contains nothing from the unrepairable past, from the lost past, it is our infant, growing at this very moment, adorned with sand, eating from our hands. Grab it. Don’t let it slip away. Don’t lose it in dreams or words. Clutch it. Tie it, and order it to obey you. Make it a road, a bell, a machine, a kiss, a book, a caress. Take a saw to its delicious wooden perfume. And make a chair; braid its back; test it. Or then, build a staircase!
Yes, a staircase. Climb into the present, step by step, press your feet onto the resinous wood of this moment, going up, going up, not very high, just so you repair the leaky roof. Don’t go all the way to heaven. Reach for apples, not the clouds. Let them fluff through the sky, skimming passage, into the past. You are your present, your own apple. Pick it from your tree. Raise it in your hand. It’s gleaming, rich with stars. Claim it. Take a luxurious bite out of the present, and whistle along the road of your destiny.
~ Pablo Neruda
My poems resemble the bread of Egypt—one night
Passes over it, and you can’t eat it any more.
So gobble them down now, while they’re still fresh,
Before the dust of the world settles on them.
Where a poem belongs is here, in the warmth of the chest;
Out in the world it dies of cold.
You’ve seen a fish—put him on dry land,
He quivers for a few minutes, and then is still.
And even if you eat my poems while they’re still fresh,
You still have to bring forward many images yourself.
Actually, friend, what you’re eating is your own imagination.
These poems are not just some old sayings and saws.
The Guest is inside you, and also inside me;
you know the sprout is hidden inside the seed.
We are all struggling; none of us has gone far.
Let your arrogance go, and look around inside.
The blue sky opens out farther and farther,
the daily sense of failure goes away,
the damage I have done to myself fades,
a million suns come forward with light,
when I sit firmly in that world.
I hear bells ringing that no one has shaken;
inside”love” there is more joy than we know of;
rain pours down, although the sky is clear of clouds;
there are whole rivers of light.
The universe is shot through in all parts by a single sort of love.
How hard it is to feel that joy in all our four bodies!
Those who hope to be reasonable about it fail.
The arrogance of reason has separated us from that love.
With the word “reason” you already feel miles away.
How lucky Kabir is, that surrounded by all this joy
he sings inside his own little boat.
His poems amount to one soul meeting another.
These songs are about forgetting dying and loss.
They rise above both coming in and going out.
noone and a star stand
noone and a star stand,am to am
(life to life;breathing to breathing
flaming dream to dreaming flame)
united by perfect nothing:
millionary wherewhens distant,as
reckoned by the unimmortal mind,
these immeasurable mysteries
(human one;and one celestial)stand
soul to soul:freedom to freedom
till her utmost secrecies and his
(dreaming flame by flaming dream)
merge—at not imaginable which
instant born,a(who is neither each
both and)Self adventures deathlessness
~ e.e. cummings
Fear of the Inexplicable
We must assume our existence as broadly as we in any way can; everything, even the unheard-of, must be possible in it. That is at bottom the only courage that is demanded of us: to have courage for the most strange, the most singular and the most inexplicable that we may encounter. That mankind has in this sense been cowardly has done life endless harm; the experiences that are called “visions,” the whole so-called “spirit-world,” death, all those things that are so closely akin to us, have by daily parrying been so crowded out of life that the senses with which we could have grasped them are atrophied. To say nothing of God.
But fear of the inexplicable has not alone impoverished the existence of the individual; the relationship between one human being and another has also been cramped by it, as though it had been lifted out of the riverbed of endless possibilities and set down in a fallow spot on the bank, to which nothing happens. For it is not inertia alone that is responsible for human relationships repeating themselves from case to case, indescribably monotonous and unrenewed: it is shyness before any sort of new, unforeseeable experience with which one does not think oneself able to cope.
But only someone who is ready for everything, who excludes nothing, not even the most enigmatical, will live the relation to another as something alive and will himself draw exhaustively from his own existence. For if we think of this existence of the individual as a larger or smaller room, it appears evident that most people learn to know only a corner of their room, a place by the window, a strip of floor on which they walk up and down. Thus they have a certain security. And yet that dangerous insecurity is so much more human which drives the prisoners in Poe’s stories to feel out the shapes of their horrible dungeons and not be strangers to the unspeakable terror of their abode.
We, however, are not prisoners. No traps or snares are set about us, and there is nothing which should intimidate or worry us. We are set down in life as in the element to which we best correspond, and over and above this we have through thousands of years of accommodation become so like this life, that when we hold still we are, through a happy mimicry, scarcely to be distinguished from all that surrounds us. We have no reason to mistrust our world, for it is not against us. Has it terrors, they are our terrors; has it abysses, those abysses belong to us; are dangers at hand, we must try to love them. And if only we arrange our life according to that principle which counsels us that we must always hold to the difficult, then that which now still seems to us the most alien will become what we most trust and find most faithful. How should we be able to forget those ancient myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
O sweet spontaneous
by: e.e. cummings
- sweet spontaneous
- earth how often have
- fingers of
- prurient philosophers pinched
- , has the naughty thumb
- of science prodded
- beauty, how
- often have religions taken
- thee upon their scraggy knees
- squeezing and
- buffeting thee that thou mightest conceive
- to the incomparable
- couch of death thy
- thou answerest
- them only with
Sometimes it really is that simple.
What Am I Not Accepting?
I’d like to share a practice that emerged for me in meditation this morning. I noticed a vague tension, as I often do, and felt myself wanting to get rid of it. Then I had the realization that the tension I was experiencing was being created, moment by moment, through my resistance to tension. In seeing that, there was a softening, a willingness to accept what a moment before I had been pushing away.
These tensions are like signposts: they indicate a place in consciousness where we are relating to what is arising with rejection or resistance. They call attention to where the flow is being impeded, and thus, they are profound gifts. Their invitation? Notice what is going on here. There is something you are not fully accepting. Go see. There is much to be revealed.
And so, I was guided to undertake a practice of inquiry for the next few weeks, and these were the instructions I received:
Ask yourself, as often as you remember to: what am I not accepting, in this moment? Have no concern for any other moments, just see about right now. Just feel into it, and see.
No requirement to change any non-acceptance that is discovered, just become aware of what is being resisted. Turn it around and look at it from a few angles. Taste it. Is it primarily physical, emotional, cognitive, subtle? Notice that as attention and curiosity land on it that it sometimes begins to melt or change. Notice that it often reveals a deeper layer of resistance, or bigger piece of resistance. Notice that our consciousness is layered, like an onion, and that as we relax or let go on one level and a deeper level comes to attention, we may again notice discomfort, tension, closure. We might become aware of something we feel more compelled to avoid. And again, in that moment, simply ask, “What am I not accepting, in this moment? What is arising, what is present, that I am not accepting, that I am pushing away or resisting or denying? What am I aware of right now? Can I soften into acceptance of all that I am aware of in my experience? If not, what am I not accepting, in this moment?”
This is not an aggressive inquiry. It is not about finding what you are not accepting and “fixing” the non-acceptance. It’s just about noticing and allowing. Allow the non-acceptance, allow it to shift if it wants to, to not shift if it doesn’t want to, to melt away if it is on the edge of dissolve. It is simply about noticing, bringing your attention to the enactment of non-acceptance as it arises in this moment through you. It is about curiosity.
Of course, attention is a very powerful thing. Very often, all the resistance was waiting for was to be noticed. Upon being noticed it evaporates. This is not always the case, but it does happen often. Still, our agendas are not what’s important here. Our only job is to direct attention in this direction — to invite it to rest on what in this moment is not being accepted, to simply notice.
You will discover that your awareness deepens; it begins to move through the layers some, from what you are aware of on the surface, to what is underneath that, and then, what is underneath that and so on.
There are many layers. As attention goes to the deeper layers, we start to become aware of some of the basic programs, the foundational structures of our individuated consciousness, in other words the consciousness of the separate self.
At this level the things we notice tend to be very primary. These are the attachments and aversions that underscore most of our experiences and that earlier in life helped to root the basic aspects of our personal identity. This is the place where we can begin to see the programs we are running and how they limit our perception and determine our experience. And yet, in noticing this, our primary intention remains to simply notice and allow. Attention itself does the work, you don’t have to.
Our only job really is to choose what we wish to give attention to. That in itself takes training; we don’t notice that by habit, we are making these choices continuously. As the choices are unconscious (habitual and automatic) it feels simply like we are noticing reality, rather than that portion of reality that our attention became trained to notice as very young people long before we had developed the capacity to self-reflect. As beings becoming Self-aware, we are now awakening and developing the powers of conscious attention.
Attention is very powerful. What we direct attention to is what we experience. This doesn’t mean that all the other things we are not paying attention to no longer exist, it just means that as our attention is not with those other things, we are not experiencing them. The practice of directing attention to what you are not accepting in any given moment is a profound practice of liberation.
I would like to invite you to join me in this practice, as an experiment. Whenever you think of it throughout your day, pause, settle, and inquire, “What am I not accepting, in this moment?” Notice. Allow.
If it is a helpful practice for you you may wish to continue with it, creating reminders for yourself to stop at least a few times a day to check in in this way. Please feel free to share in the comments below any part of your process with this practice and what it is revealing to you.
With much love,