Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Day 4 Dog Barking in the Temple

A Bridge of Light Over the Turbulent Yuba River

The Dog Next Door Barked Again and Again

Dog barked all day.
Then he barked all night.
Boring when you analyze it.
Sad when you feel it.
Background noise when you set it down.
Like a thought or a compulsion.

From my upcoming book Simple Life

This place has been a refuge from consternation and blaring static, with one exception. My seeming nemesis, the barking dog, is here.

I have pretty bad tinnitus, or ringing in the head. Something about the pitch of certain dogs actually hurts my brain. It’s not uncommon for people with nerve damage in their ears to experience this sort of jolt from certain noises. For me, it’s the ubiquitous barking dog. It’s noise that actually sends the shock of my ears into my veins. This jolt too often foments agitation and stories about neglectful dog owners. The barking neglected dogs seem to be everywhere for me, including here in the supposed silence. 

A hundred yards from the trailer a dog is penned in and alone. The dog shouts like the person coughing in a church meeting or a screaming baby in the coffee shop.

I went for a walking meditation on our third day. Then back to the trailer after morning meditation sadnha and asanas (Yoga postures) I am peaceful for moments. That’s when the barking dog begins his disruptive teaching. Why would they allow such a disruptive barker to annoy ME in this place of tranquility?

I went to find the source of the barking. In a cabin around the corner from us a dog was yelling from behind the windows. With each cry the curtains shook. My heart leapt. Why had I come closer to the noise that bothers me? Though I walked away, I was tempted to stay and just face my fears with the dog.

I decided to meditate instead. Not running away. Not going deeper into the illogical thing that vexes me so often. I went to the forest meditation structure. I sat. What can I do Father Mother? How do I manifest the fear and loneliness (barking) of this world inside of myself?

I sat until I felt a semblance of clarity. The dog continued to bark nearby. But the shivers had left my body along the rigidity in my shoulders and neck. Then I listed all the things I could do with vexation of feeling afraid in the world.

-          Shake it off like an animal shakes off the rain and fear after being chased.
-          Yell
-          Be the dog without asking the whys about the owner and circumstances
-          Be empty space, which carries no ordinary sound.
-          Sit with the moans and yips without absorbing its cuts and punches.
-          Gird myself with my practice
-          Confront the owner if I can or at least find out about the welfare of the one barking and crying.
-          Give up and become a victim
-          Avoid by obsessively doing something
-          Name it. Go deeper inside and say what the real issue is.
-          Bark and bark myself
-          Fix it
-          Blame myself for being too sensitive.
-          Hate dogs.
-          Love dogs.

The point became clearer. I have freedom to choose. There are a hundred options in this bag of curiosity. The other point is to pause and begin any action with non-action. Am I centered and truly more ready to be in the world that confronts one with sensory assaults at every turn?

The world was not meant to be lost in or be afraid in. I remember that the ways of the world are not a personal affront to me, unless I make it that way. An experience is neither good or bad, kind nor debilitating unless I react from a place mirroring those attributes. All of this is simple to say. But difficult to do.

I’m reminded of the poem by Basho:

The temple bell stops.
But the sound keeps coming
out of the flowers.

What I focus upon becomes the very thing I hear in my own thoughts and dreams.

Dear Reader: What is your barking dog in this world?
What seems to be so outside of you that it feels victimizing to experience it?
It could be the evening news, or a teenage son’s petulance.
It could be the rain that continues for days or a lover who has not returned your call.

I found some ideas to transform my barking dog issue. The first idea is that I have choices. My first choice is to pause and feel myself, not my stories. This is the practice of yoga.

What is your barking dog? What are your choices, right now and here?


(c) Copyright Richard Sievers, December 2012, All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Day 3 Transmutation of Faith

Day three at the ashram and I begin a new habit of being a scribe. I write down a verse or line that has meaning to me. The act of writing it again makes it a part of the body’s memory.

Today it was a particularly succulent translation of Psalm 19. These words rose up from the page and then seeped into my heart:

“God’s universe is perfect
awing the mind.
God’s truth is subtle,
baffling the intellect.
God’s law is complete,
quickening he breath.
God’s compassion is fathomless,
refreshing the soul.
God’s justice is absolute,
lighting up the eyes.
God’s love is radiance,
rejoicing the heart,
more precious than fine gold,
sweeter than honey from the comb.

Help me be aware of my selfishness
without undue shame or self judgment.
Let me always feel you present
in every atom of my life.
Let me keep surrendering myself
until I am utterly transparent.
Let my words be rooted in honesty
and my thoughts be lost in your light,
Unnamable God,
my essence,
my origin,
my life blood.”

From Ladinsky’s book Love Poems From God

I am in the temple meditating and the words and tune from an old Christian hymn drift inside of me

“Holy Holy Holy Lord God Almighty.
early in the morning I shall raise my song to thee.”

This verse and this song rose from the memory of a church I'd been part of decades ago. It was a place where many would have thought this ashram experience blasphemous, or at least dangerous. I let those thoughts pass. For the song was beautiful inside my chest. I recited the next verse softly:

“Only thou art holy.
There are none beside the.
Which wert and art
and evermore shall be.”

In the temple, beside me, a disciple of Yogananda begins the low slung tones of

OM… OM. 

I am filled with joy.

I join in with his rhythmical chant.

It is not only melding of beliefs here but also a transmutation of faiths I've experienced in earlier parts of my life. The duality thinking that this is bad that is good melted away for long moments in the meditation hall.

Am I crazy, singing evangelical songs and reciting old testament poems in an ashram? Yes, to the world perhaps, crazy. Probably crazy just for being here. Perhaps not.

The separation between sects and faiths falls apart like a brittle wall in an earthquake of devotion. None of that matters now. God is everywhere, even in church, even in the memory of an old song I thought I’d forgotten.

Between the Old and the New

Copyright Richard Sievers, December 201, All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Day 2 Habits of Body, Mind and Spirit.

 Manly Development

I cried
reading a poem.
That is a good sign
for my development,
both the reading and
the tears.

From my upcoming book of Poems Simple Life

Our breakfasts in the community are always taken in silence. The silence is broken later with a devotional reading and prayer. I remember my first breakfast over oatmeal. Sitting with new people. Sitting with my wife and with wonderings about the coming two weeks. Thinking I should be calming and quiet. But that is not what my body had in its mind.

At the table with sun speckled leaves all around me I read Rilke’s Ninth Eulogy. He is describing how the angels are already experts on the miraculous and the wonderful. They long to connect with us in something that they cannot know: They want to know more about simple miracles of the ordinary life.

"...And the things, even as they pass,
understand that we praise them.
Transient, they are trusting us
to save them--us, the most transient of all.
As if they wanted in our invisible hearts
to be transformed
into-- oh endlessly-- into us..."

Rilke's poem ends with

Abundance of being floods my heart.

Quote from marvelous book Rilke's In Praise of Mortality
Translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

When I read the word Abundance I break into a sob. It is spontaneous and even jolting. I sat over my bowl of oatmeal and weep, not just cry, but weep. It's embarrassing to say this out in the world where people trample what they fear. Yet my pride about being strong was not so stony in the shelter of community. I wanted to feel safe. My spirit must have informed my body that it was safe here. So I cry. Head bent and then held up.
I was fully a man and I felt everything!
For moments a poem sang in my body.

I cried in a way that might have been mocked in my own family, out in the world or even here in cyber space. But here on this retreat, my wife looks on with compassion. And the other people don’t seem to even notice. Like it’s normal to feel like this and even to show it out loud. (It is normal!!)

I felt like my whole body let out the storage of the strongman. The armor of being in the matrix of the world.

I look out over the field and see our little trailer up on the crest of the hill. I recite the Rilke lines “Praise the world to the angel: leave the unsayable aside”

I write in my journal

"These trees, my parishioners.
This meadow, my church.
This stone, my pulpit.
These grasses, my holy parchment.
This wind, my song.
This trailer, my hermit’s cave.
This being still, the light of the sun
This pen, my traveling heart,
moving from god into God."

Then I named the spirits that I have known and who have loved me deeply over the years. I recited their names, like doorways to God. This practice of seeing, reflecting and naming would become the habit of my stay here in the church of sky and people.

For long drafts of time I felt unafraid of tears and worship. I thought: Perhaps this is the way we are built, under the armor of survival and comparison.


Copyright Richard Sievers, December 2012