The Presence Beneath the Storm in the Field
This is a revised version of the blog I posted and then deleted on Halloween.
We recently hosted an intimate gathering of friends to read poems in remembrance of our ancestors. We shared a circle of poems while orbiting a candle-lit altar of photographs and mementos of the dead. It was sweet and expanding to take in the voices of my friends. I was inspired to witness people standing bravely at a podium to read their grief and gratitude. Rumi reflects my feelings about friendship shared in this way in his poem This We Have Now Here’s an excerpt of Rumi’s poem as translated by Coleman Barks *
This we have now
is not imagination.
This is not
grief or joy.
Not a judging state,
or an elation,
Those come and go. ..
This is the presence
What else could human beings want? …
When we turned out the lights, and left the studio everyone felt the mystery of deep love come with them into the night. I slept deeply that night, with a smile.
Then I woke up to challenges in my personal life. The world of neither this nor that, neither good or bad, had faded within my sleep. In the morning I found myself feeling cut off and alone. The reasons why are not so important. It’s just part of the human experience. Up and down, happy and sad… These are feelings that everyone has. They come and go.
I found myself wondering what difference I made with my writing. I found the shadow within me rising in the ashes the great light of the previous night. Indeed it was a night that I felt reflected holiness, heaven and hope. Isn’t it amazing how the dark feelings also want to flower from the sweet earth of prayer and service?
I spent the next day planting an orchard in our field. Fourteen supple apple saplings. These are trees that I hope will outlive me and my concerns. I was digging with a fervor. I had also been spinning down a hole of my supposedly being alone in the world, of other people not caring, of my particular work on earth being pointless.
So I paused and put down the shovel.
Then I asked myself "Why am I falling into a dark place of feeling less than and alone? Where is my self worth as a writer?" I had been feeling unique in an experience of alienation. Not so.
Is there any place for a poet or artist in our society of put down humor and murderous video games? What about other wonderists, or dreamers, or conversationalists, or yogis, or prayerful farmers? What if everyone felt alone in the sometime sense of alienation and separation? I just stood and looked into the muddy hole I was digging.
A chant from yoga moved through my body:
Chidananda rupa shivoham shivoham
It's a Sanskrit chant remembering loving consciousness, divinity and even bliss. I felt more solid. I began to sing while the rain began to fall gently. Then I came up here to my cabin, to this flickering screen of many colors and I wrote to you.
I wonder what thoughts I am planting in my soul?
Is there a place for the dreamer, the sensitive and the even the childlike? Yes… YES… there is a place! It’s inside the heart. And it was in our little studio on a stormy night last week. Where is the place of Presence for you?
I returned to field. I recalled the joy of being with friends and the presence that never leaves. I went and sliced more sod, laid down more compost and untangled more pot bound roots. I planted gratitude and an honoring of All of my feelings, pretty or not.
Whatever creative endeavors that come to you, no matter how spindly or muddy, plant them. Nourish them. Let no one, not even your inner critic, tear them down. Remember the One that never leaves us and always loves us.
Words and images copyright (c) of Rick Sievers, 2011
* An excerpt from the Book: The Essential Rumi, a Translation by Coleman Barks, Harper Publishers, 1995