Monday, November 14, 2011

The Presence Beneath the Storm

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,  
or sadness. 
Those come and go. ..
This is the presence  
that doesn’t… 
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.

I paused.
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

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Book Under the Book

First view of my island land in the San Juan Islands in 2001
photo (c) Rick Sievers 2001

After thousands of words writing my new book I put my tired hands down. Why am I here? What do I really want with the writing of this particular story? I was grateful to get a glimmering of this as lay on yoga mat in my lovely circle of friends.* Thank you circle for opening space for me to be still and begin to remember who I am. These are the first raw words of my new book:

The Book Under the Book:

Most nights The Spirits come. In dreams, floating up and around me, watching me, touching me tenderly. Some nights They take me to the place that is no place at all. Some nights They take me into Their houses in fields of star-lights that sing and moan with wordless wonder of the original song of the universe. Some nights I rest in Their arms, or play with Their words like putty, or swim in Their oceans with shining cities beneath me.

I awaken in the morning, sometimes drugged, because holding the joy and the sadness is so painful in a world that seems to be mutilating itself. Most mornings I awaken and for moments my body is not afraid of dying or of living. For moments my body is eager to express the wonder of that place of “wows”. But this experience on sacred wounded Earth is a place of vows and loss. And I forget.

I promised my soul that I would really be here in my life and circumstances this time around. But it’s so hard when waking in the morning means that my heart  begins to afraid again. Sometimes I see why my Grandmother chose to die at age 50.  The tangled world of consensuality can be so challenging to the soul, so challenging to remain awake in, so challenging to not take the lessons we dance with personally.

One sweet spring night seven years ago I lay my body down in a room with 30 people intent on spiritual journeys a compassionate magic. I lay my body down. And my spirit rose up and out… but now away. I touched something so wonderful and beautiful it hurt to recall. Almost terrible in it’s beauty. A red star pulsed in the crown of Orion. I went into the burning and I sat in a field as solid as what we call real. A single blade of grass bent low beside me and quivered in the breeze. Al the magic, all the miracles, all the posturing language, all the yearning for things and acceptance and understanding fell away in a moment. I swear I was there for eternity. I swear, I have never left that place.

Yet my consciousness came back here to this world, back to the room with arguments and hurts and love affairs that seemed so important at the time. Back to this reflection of the Great Beauty from the Song of the Universe. Back to forgetting again. There are moments that are so poignant or painful or lovely that I must go into that small seed on the swaying grass head and remember. The universe is joy incarnate.  And here it is also pain.

When I arrived back in the circle of friends after that journey I cried…. no, I wept loudly for several hours. I stumbled outside into the mid California night fragrances and fell into the dirt. Over and over I cried out to the Benevolent Spirits: “Why did you have to show me that?? It’s so beautiful. It’s so wonderful. Why? Why?” I wondered how I could remain here in corporeal form and be away from that full knowing. I sensed that reintegrating into my everyday life after this would be hard. I didn't know how the yearning and remembering would tear my sense world apart. It was a profound mystery to me.

Today, after losing the touch of so many of those friends and the kiss of my once upon a time Anam Cara, I have a hunch about the “why”. Somehow I need to tell about the nature of the wonder that we are all destined for, the wonder of true love that is everywhere and nowhere at all. Poetry seemed like a good place to start, and then surrender to my life and to the griefs that have been carried by all my ancestors, and perhaps all of our ancestors.

I don’t know how to start explaining that single blade of grass that was singing. For me, it was God Universal cloaked in a form that I could touch for a moment… just a glimmering of what really is true.

This book could be a story about fostering spiritual power, searching for healing, becoming a man and then being torn from limb to limb… so that somehow I might give you, beloved reader, a glimpse of wonder. Or it may be to tell you we are not alone, we the beginning of the new age, we the opened and destroyed, we the merely human. You are not alone. And I am writing this to remind myself to cling to the voice whispering in my sleep: “Soon my love we will be as one. Soon.”

I write to channel the sadness of sleeping through my own life into a gift to the world and especially to my grandmother who felt so alone when she died. I write to remember who I am before the end, before the Great Song rises through my body and takes me to a crimson star.

Copyright (c) on image and words Rick Sievers, 2011 
* My Yoga Community:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Being The Fire

 The Fallen, 2004 (c) Rick Sievers

I woke this morning feeling very sad, like there's no place in our world for a man poet dreamer idealist...too sensitive, too nice, too unskillful. I sat at my window for a time and then went out on the crystal strewn grasses of the frosty field. This world is so luminous when you really experience it. It can be so painful too. I came back to my desk and opened up an old journal from a decade past. A Compassionate Spirit had given me loving words to sustain me:

“Be the fire you seek to warm yourself by.
Be the flame and others will come.
A flame never burns alone.”

Then I opened another journal and right there the last poem I ever wrote for my beloved friend on Whidbey Island:

We walk

into the fire .

We live

in the burning.

We fly

within the smoke.

Finally I opened a journal to a prayer I heard in my heart when I was walking in the New Mexico desert four years ago.:

"God, consume me with a story 
that will spark healing in our world. 
Let me be ashes in Your hearth. 
Let me be a memory of a deep cold night 
spent in the light and heat of Your love."

Sometimes the spirit that can save you from despair is your own historical self, coming forward in time to remind you
of the praises in this world.

Am I willing to be a fool for my longings? 
Am I open to being saved by remembering 
the Compassionate One's voice? 

It's hard to remain present in this world 
that seems to be so full of self-inflicted fear. 
I cling to the love I know is real... 
that's the only thing that seems to last. 

Today, what do you cling to? 
What is worthy of your one beautiful blazing heart?


Copyright Words and Images (c) Rick Sievers 2011