Sequences in Acts

I’ve been making it a habit to give my pooch a little extra love and appreciation on our afternoon walks. Usually I give him a good rub down when we get to the grassy field at the church, on the corner down the street. Tonight the clouds pass on a conveyor belt and the immensity of the sky is quite clear. I try to let go of any notions about myself and just focus on giving, he deserves it, though it usually doesn’t last long. Brief moments answering the Immediate Question with an act of giving instead of taking. It doesn’t matter where, it doesn’t matter when.

Even here
One can experience the infinite
Even here.


*The Immediate Question is quite clearly Now. If life were a series of questions in each moment, asking you for your attention, where would you give it, and how well could you give it. What is this moment asking of you, right now?


Experience

Living for experience is living for yourself. Living experience is living for others.


Experience was a way of communicating between things that are separate, but having an experience becomes less important as we realize the intrinsic togetherness of all things. The realization of interconnectedness is living fulfillment, not experiencing fulfillment.

Rodney Smith, Awakening pg. 193

The Northern Flicker calls for his mate (but I selfishly assume it has something to do with me) from the lamp post. He calls and waits patiently before taking off, flashing a brilliant turmeric underwing across the street to the tip of a cedar and continues his search. The flicker is curious because it’s a woodpecker, but unlike most woodpeckers it is tan with black speckles on its breast. He has a white tuft that when he takes for flight, or hops around foraging, he looks like a bunny skittering for the bushes. His calls are finally returned, it seems, in the cedar across the way. And so his journey has found its completion, I have no clue from how far he came, how many trees he hopped from, how many lamp posts he drummed, to get to this stage of his journey, but it seems that he will begin nesting. No longer will he only forage for himself, only burrow for one, only to protect himself.

The flicker is declining throughout the US perhaps they have taken my attention, put me under a spell, so that I might do something to help their survival, at least in this part of the neighborhood. Or perhaps coming across these magnificent animals is a sign that things are changing, a shift is coming and all I have to do is accept it. Holding on to old concepts of self for so long that giving them up and shifting consciousness is messy business. The flicker drumming the arrival of change, the chorus frog singing his song of rebirth and renewal. All I have to do is listen.

I’ve been coming across this idea a lot lately…




The hero’s journey ends with the giving up of oneself for the sake of another, the letting go of the ego, and the giving up of one’s self, for the sake of another person. Is there a more difficult and beautiful thing to accomplish?

Joseph Campbell Episode 1 “The Hero’s Adventure” (The Power of Myth series on Netflix)

Listen (Practice)

I’ve had a head cold over the past week which has really hampered my desire and ability to write poetry, as well as for my meditation practice. I’m just starting to come out of the haze and getting my footing back into some kind of normalcy. Without the practice, without the regimen of daily meditation all I have left is coffee. Anyway it occurred to me that I do still, in fact, have the practice. I do have ways to focus my mind, to keep it oriented even if my nose is clogged! This is through the practice of listening, listening deeply without adding anything (via thought) to the moment, just supporting and understanding, being there for the person I’m in conversation with and not letting things distract me from this purpose. It’s difficult and so often -before I’ve even recognized it- thoughts have run away from the situation, but if practiced with regularity, just like a daily meditation practice, this should take on a more important role in my practice, even more so than breathing perhaps. Deep and active listening comes from listening that is not narrative driven, that which has no agenda, or judgments, it comes from wisdom, from the ground. Deep listening is trying to understand the other person’s narrative; the other person’s wants and needs without adding anything to it. Could we also use this for ourselves? Yes!

 Thich Nhat Hanh: Deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of another person. You can call it compassionate listening. You listen with only one purpose: to help him or her to empty his heart. Even if he says things that are full of wrong perceptions, full of bitterness, you are still capable of continuing to listen with compassion. Because you know that listening like that, you give that person a chance to suffer less. If you want to help him to correct his perception, you wait for another time. For now, you don’t interrupt. You don’t argue. If you do, he loses his chance. You just listen with compassion and help him to suffer less. One hour like that can bring transformation and healing. 

http://cultureofempathy.com/References/Experts/Thich-Nhat-Hanh.htm

I really struggled the other day when a friend was talking to me about his crappy weekend. It was one of those times when one bad thing gets compounded by many other bad things. And as he was telling me about it, I knew there to be times when I was distracted by cars driving by or the breeze in the trees, but thinking back on the conversation the thing that was most distracting was my thoughts driving me away from what he was saying, and the majority of these thoughts were based on the fact that I didn’t have the right thing to say, that I was somehow not a very good friend because I didn’t have any good advice or comforting words for him. So my narrative drove me away from the conversation and it became very self centered and stressful as I bashed myself over and over again. I was going in and out of these thoughts and came to rest on at least not adding to his frustration by turning it into a bitch fest. At the least don’t add to his depression by gossiping about the people causing his problems. But of course the more I focused on staying away from this course of action, the more I was drawn to it and I heard myself saying things that opened the wound even more.

This situation happened before I remembered that deep, active listening can and should be a part of my daily practice, but even at the time I felt embarrassed and knew that I only served to bring back up the difficult things he was dealing with.

Always following my own narrative. I’m always following my own narrative, even when I’m taking interest in someone else’s it still comes back around to filter through my own. Why? Why is this so? Is this the mechanism that contributes to an overarching feeling of alienation? This is why listening deeply has become such an important focus for my practice, because when I listen deeply to others I force myself out of this mechanism that revolves around the watcher (ego). I lose myself in their words, their world, their problems, which for a short instance all become mine as well as theirs; ours.

A Brief History of My Dog My dog is a rescue. Apparently he was being neglected and abused when he was found wondering the streets. He had been being left outside and found multiple times before taken in to be offered to a home that would love him. We found him and gave him that love. Though with a bit of a caveat. We had many instances of him going potty inside and at that time I had no control over my anger whatsoever and there were plenty of times when we came home and found he’d pooped in the house or gone through the trash and I’d take my anger and frustration out on him. Not something I’m proud of today and something that I have to face as every time I raise my voice I see him slink down and head to his kennel. He picks up on my moods very easily and it’s amazing to see, however something that also serves as a reminder for how I treated him in the past. Had I handled the situation with a little more understanding and compassion he may have worked through whatever it is that causes him to shit in my house! Now when I take time out, he goes and refuses to get near it, pulling away on his leash. He’s so afraid of his own shit. The whole of this history for being hurt and punished for it comes up each and every time he sees it.

And I think we are much the same with our own shit, our past beliefs about ourselves which we’ve made this whole narrative about comes up again and again each moment. It comes up in our narrative in our minds and we follow it without question. Perhaps my friend had already accepted and gotten over the bad weekend and all he really needed was someone to hear his story. Perhaps he just needed to know that someone else had had similar experiences and hearing someone share them would’ve helped him most, but while following my narrative, I could only think about how I didn’t have the right words for him and so was a bad friend and slunk back into my shell and didn’t provide any of that!

I think that if I can meet my own shit (and my kids, and wife!) with the understanding and compassion that comes from deep listening it can provide many opportunities for new growth. Seeing deep listening as a daily practice, much like meditation, really is the first step.

This fresh new growth
leaves not yet unfolded
has already been chewed through

Practice

I’ve read it a couple times, heard it said, each time from a different source, I believed it each time, felt the truth of it, but it never really clicked until yesterday. How many of my thoughts are tied to time and space? I meditated on this question for only about 10-15 minutes and it became clear that nearly all of them have some connection to a different time or place. Even while thinking new thoughts, new lines for poems, or pictures to draw, I’m simultaneously thinking of the blog post, at some point in the future, that it could go on! While driving I think of places I’ve been, or the destination I’m going to get to. It seems endless. And for what? For each of us the answer might be different, for me I’ve found that these thoughts come up when I’m feeling worried, unprepared, embarrassed; thinking my way out of a difficult situation, reasoning my reactions to help me feel better. So, where is the void around these kind of thoughts? The space that takes them in. When I listen to the silence that has no concerns for time or space, the formless, that is always available, I feel like I’m standing behind a waterfall. In a carved out granite ledge, feeling the force of wind and mist passing me. Very freeing.

Now I’m doing some walking meditation noticing the thoughts concerning time and space, and I’m thinking I have to stop, I know how unnecessary, I shouldn’t think in these terms, I should be doing better… And here’s where another teaching I’ve read, or heard a dozen times, believed to be true, but never really was able to call it forward more than a few times before it gets forgotten came in -Nonjudgmental observation. By understanding my thoughts to be my way of dealing with stresses and worries with nonjudgmental observation I give them that space to be, and feel that freedom. By understanding I mean knowing what the thoughts are, where they come from and being understanding of them.

Now after rereading this I realize that these words are just like the ones I’ve read, and so not even original to me, which is what makes it an underlying truth, a principal to stand on. The original part is taking the time to question these things, on your own until you come to your original unique understanding, Ah ha! which is called insight, knowledge is read, insight is understood in your own terms and words.

Moving forward
I know what needs 
to be done.
Understanding.