14 November 2010

Coffee Shop - Sunday Afternoon

Maybe it's because I'm still drunk from last night's wine, lustily imbibed and heartily enjoyed (I've decided that the word "hangover" is just a way of prettying up what is, really, still being drunk).
Maybe I'm just very aware of the difference in age between my middle aged self and the rest of the people here.
Whatever it is - what sounds, in the title, like a peaceful way to spend a Sunday afternoon is, today, an experience in sorting through the cacaphony of fifty different conversations, the clicking of 28 keyboards (I just counted them), and the various sounds involved in preparing and pulling espresso shots. The noise, for that's what all of it adds up to, has a wave-like quality - added to by the music coming out of four well placed speakers - that is giving this experience a rhythm and metre that I wish I could capture in my writing.
Now the blender, someone's ordered another iced drink, comes in to the mix - just as the two neighborhood pre-teen girls come in the door. They show up every time the barrista Tristan is working - their joint crush on this young man clearly visible on their faces, in their postures. And now all conversations drop off at once, one of those moments when, if someone farted, we'd all hear it clearly.
Do I have a point here? Not so sure - as my still drunk brain refuses to produce separate thoughts, discrete ideas - responds only "rabble, rabble, rabble" when I ask it to organize and make sense of what its experiencing.
Perhaps the point is about having reached an age when a wall of sound is heard as just a wall. Perhaps I'm struggling to live with the fact OF my age, that I really ought not drink so much, ought to have better sense. Alas, it seems that I don't - and really can't get too concerned about it.
Perhaps the point ISN'T to worry about what the point is - but to observe, to allow my senses and psyche to be affected by where I am in this moment, to stop demanding that my brain figure out the "whys" of the experience and simply be with what the experience IS.

08 November 2010

Being in the World

This weekend just past - a writers' retreat just outside of Louisville, but with a feeling of remoteness from the city and its rapid pace. And then there was the retreat aspect - time to sit on a bench in the chill, under a maple still half possessed of its orange leaves - time for early morning walks with no deadline, no clock telling me it is time to shower and get in the car.
Jeeze - listen to me - you'd think I worked full-time and led a hectic life! But seriously, there is a deepening of joy to be found in time taken in nature, and around people who create. For of course the most affecting aspect of the weekend was being around poets - who are often nit picky about more than just the right word or whether or not a comma works in a certain spot - and who always strive for clarity and for that gem-like object we call a poem.
The juiciness of the smallest piece of experience seems to drip in my sight and smell and hearing when I'm around these people, whose passion is to create, and who willingly, even eagerly, put in the hours and use up the paper to get the result we call poem.
Returning to the world from these retreats always seems like returning from Oz - like I used to flying back from California after school weekends. I have to remind myself to be careful on the drive, to watch vigilantly - because, emotionally for sure, I am still on retreat.
Then today - observing a sand mandala construction at the Festival of Faiths here in town. Though observing is incorrect, the wrong verb. But what is the right one for this experience?
This is my third mandala. And with each one the same gestalt is re-made, re-entered, and yet somehow experienced as for the first time. Different populations don't seem to affect the experience, nor do variants in the location or the time of day I am able to attend. I guess the verb I was needing to use instead of observing was experiencing.
If you've never had the opportunity to experience a mandala construction, take the next one you get. It's actually rather indescribable - but I can put a bit of it into words.
First is the rare physical sensation of calm - peace if you like - that moves from the mandala, out through the monks, and into the entirety of the space. It comes over me in the same way, or nearly so, as the grains of colored sand are placed in position - through the slightest of motions and the clearest of intentions that weren't even evident before settling into the space from which I watch. There is an obvious, but always unexpected, feel of heart at rest, of the blood's motion proceeding at its natural pace - both too often lacking in the daily round we call life.
Then come the images, the memories of sound and smell and hearing that somehow don't seem to be personal. The closest I can come to defining them is that they are what Jung called collective unconscious - some connective memory that we - individually - haven't experienced, but know, nevertheless.
Usually, and today was no exception, I discover - when I first find my body needing to move - that I've sat or stood for over an hour without awareness of time passing. Or maybe I've fallen into time in a whole new way - I don't know. What I do know is that when the monks are ready to stop I always feel as if I'm supposed to either go with them or stay in the space where this experience lives. But the world outside has not gone away - and I must re-enter it after all.
I try to do so carefully - in the same way I leave retreat - in the same way I used to leave school weekends. I also find that I see this world outside differently than before I went in. People's faces seem so angry to me, their movements so unsure. There appears to be more, and noisier, traffic than ever. Most interesting of all is that I seem able to observe all of this and not feel anger or sadness about it. Nor can I join back into this hard-edged world with much energy or any will to change it.
The more of these experiences I have, the greater my appreciation of the incredibly rich gifts I am graced with. Yes, me, myself, Mary Jo - who has often bemoaned so much of what life has presented her with - is learning, gradually, to see herself as the Being in the World she was meant to be - always was.