The house exists only in this dream. Smell of salt and sea, shade of mid-day. Nothing of street or sky, just a path to green lawn. Hard warm concrete gives way to soft clover, cradling my feet.
I toddle across the lawn. My legs are unsteadiness and resolve. A Bird of Paradise flies at the far edge and I’m pulled there. The flower bends level to my crown: brilliant orange, yellow, a stripe of red along the rippled edges. I hold it slick and weighty in my two hands. I tilt the tip of the petals toward my mouth.
A kind of honeysuckle rolls onto my tongue and down my throat, and with it, light. Warm, bright, radiant light falls like flavor into me, and finds exit through my pores and fingertips. Light shoots out, sweet liquid falls in and then light shoots out through any place it can find. What funny bright light this is. How far it shoots out of every place it can find. I hold up my hands to see. I know the bliss of a star.
My name is called. The light turns off. The flower nods in air and I toddle back toward the house.
I didn’t expect this. A hard rock drummer, and strange. I guess I’ve wasted my whole life trying to taste honeysuckle that way again. I remember the aura around the flavor but not quite the taste. I say honeysuckle because that name is the closest I can come up with, but the taste was miles deeper than any honeysuckle.
I guess I’ve wasted my whole life sleepwalking, no plan, just baffled and batted around by impulses, by my mind, my thoughts, my fears. Thinking if I tasted everything offered I would find that light again.
I guess I’m strange because it doesn’t seem like a waste.
I have a rent-control apartment, a daily meditation practice, three bands, three drumsets and a studio that is cluttered and dusty and which contains all that I own of value. I’m broke because I quit my day job. I’m pissed off that my jeans don’t fit. I’m stressed about the bands. I suspect that when people ask, what were your happiest moments, that not only was I trashed for every one of them, but that being trashed was part of what made me happy.
My body has revolted against me. I drank only green juice for one week and lost exactly one pound. It’s as if my metabolism were saying, fuck you and your shenanigans. When I was 24, I ate a pumpernickel bagel, grapes and steamed vegetables every day. I still thought I was fat. What was the point? I had this image of going through life and finally letting all this body stuff go, living in the true self, putting all those old patterns of thought away once and for all. Instead here they come, roaring back as if I were 13 years old again and spending days in misery over my thighs. If I had those thighs now, I would wear hot pants to an opera.
I thought by this point I would finally live in moderation, and take all the knowledge I’ve gained from those searching, wandering years and put it to use, finally become a grown up. I go for weeks, a month, so pure I have no use for deodorant: only raw foods and the right number of steps and Pilates and meditation and colonics and on and on. Every new and life-prolonging Whole Foods sniffing action, I’m on it. I meditate in the morning, bringing myself into my heart center and become truly at peace.
Later that night I trade $10 for a smoke from a bunch of heroin addicts in the park playing Grateful Dead songs and nursing their pit bull puppies. Grateful Dead song, the same first measure, over and over.
I have Matcha tea in the morning and put a little bit of coconut oil in there so I don’t get overloaded with the caffeine boost. Next week, I’ll drive 11 hours to a show in Portland and drink Red Bull and eat Power Bars to get up there. I’ll aim to tear into the drums like a gorilla, epically huge and powerful behind the kit. After the show, I’ll collapse in self-loathing when I see the gorilla come to life in a fan photo on Facebook. The pendulum swings so fatiguingly wide.
The thing is, there’s still that Bird of Paradise.
I used to think that if there was a heaven and a hell, then this reality is a version of hell. We get moments of bliss and then we forget how to find them.
I guess I have learned one thing. Heaven, Hell, Reality, Version. In bliss, these concepts dart away quick as a finch. Bliss is not Happiness. Happy is what the Self can be. Bliss is more.
When I first read about Buddhism, I got stuck on one concept, and it bothered me endlessly.
How can the loss of the Self equal happiness if what I do and whom I love is what makes me happy? How can drumming make me so happy and yet be wrong?
Then, I was at my second 10-day meditation retreat in the golden plains West of Dallas, and it was the seventh day. I was falling deeper into the center of myself, and as I did my pores opened and I started breathing out of my skin, becoming more and more insubstantial. A bird outside the window sang a song and the song blew through me like a breeze. The Self fell away. Only Bliss was there.
If I could say I lived in that space always, I would be a Buddha. I would have come home to the light of that honeysuckle. I’d probably never eat a donut again. Instead, I’m a rock drummer. Those few seconds of enlightenment shine like a small pinprick of light on a dark and noisy stage.
Hear me read this post here: https://soundcloud.com/clemthegreat/an_introduction?in=clemthegreat/sets/bliss-and-drumming