Another stormy San Francisco morning. I love the sound of the wind and the rain. Wooden chimes hang on the fire escape outside the kitchen window, and I imagine that their low castanet sound will trigger a sense memory in the future, when I have left this apartment and am longing for my days in this magical city.
The band has been on hiatus for a few weeks, and while I have a bunch of music stuff to write about, on my mind this morning is still the big picture stuff. You’ll have to indulge me in yet one more such post until I get back to writing about learning Zeppelin songs.
I’ve been in a funny state. I’m drawn like a moth to a bug zapper when it comes to world affairs. I know too much of it is causing me so much stress, and yet I feel not just drawn to the light, but as if I am not doing my part if I don’t sizzle on that thing until I collapse into a twitching mess.
I spend time paying attention, forming opinions, imagining the worst, signing up and donating and being vigilant, and then I have to go sit in meditation and let peaceful awareness carry all the stress away. I fall into the place beneath anxiety, beneath fear, beneath anger and sadness and that river of thought that carries me constantly to the worst case scenario. It’s a still place. I think my whole life I ran away from this place, seeing this infinite, quiet plane as boring, or worse, like death. How we get attached to our misery. How we get attached to our pain and our sad stories and our neuroses and our worry. I see how comfortable it all is, and how when I let go, how my ego, this Clementine who walks around the planet, thinks she’s going to die. Well, she does die a little, all that suffering dies just a little bit each time I sit on my little bench, with the pug snoring next to me, and I fall into this silent, open place, and just be still.
In this place, I can’t help but watch compassion fill me up and fall out of my pores. Compassion when I think how delicate the human being, with the tangled nervous systems and overtime brains. I was born with a relatively mild temperament and a lucky upbringing. How are people who are more sensitive, more injured, more fragile doing right now? If I feel so manic and so freaked out so much of the time, how is the rest of the world doing? How on Earth can I make it better?
What I have come to notice, is that when I sit in stillness it is easy for me to manifest compassion for humanity. The struggle happens when I turn that feeling toward Clementine. The other side of compassion is guilt. Guilt for indulging in a solitary creative path, rather than living a career of service. Guilt for anything I have done to contribute to the damage to the planet. Guilt for the injury, the harsh words, all the behaving badly that I’ve inflicted on the world and that has perpetuated more pain. I find it so difficult to have compassion for her.
So what do I do. I sit. I sit and watch the guilt rise up. It feels like a choking feeling, so I just invite that feeling in. Let me just feel it fully. I detach myself from any story behind the guilt. I don’t try to explain my actions, or excuse them, or see them as any use. I let the story go, and I just allow the sensation of the guilt to overtake me. I can take it, I remind myself when a heavy pain enters my joints and chest. I just keep inviting it in. And I watch.
Sometimes when I do this with emotions, especially with shame, a thought will come to my mind: this will kill me. I will die if I experience so much pain, so much regret, so much sorrow. Isn’t that why we are always pushing these things away? It’s too much. I’m going to die if I let myself feel all that built-up pain.
Well, I guess the ego does die a little when we let go of the hold these emotions have on us. I guess Clementine stops identifying with them. I guess I then get to spend more time in that infinite plane. That peaceful, open awareness that expands beyond this place, this life. That plane that fills each of us, and lies waiting for us to discover.
When I allow myself to experience an emotion like this, it’s funny how it lessens in intensity. It’s funny how I just can’t hold on to it forever. I start to find places in my body where I don’t see the guilt anymore. My fingers seem pretty happy and tingly on my left hand, so I guess I’m not composed entirely of the emotion. I guess there’s some part of me that is just relaxed and peaceful. I’ve been pushing away feeling this emotion because it is so painful, but the funny thing is that I get a sense that all emotions want is to be recognized, to be allowed to rise up, and when I look right at them, they dissolve.
When I’m sitting in meditation and an emotion rises up out of nowhere, out of no thought or story, it’s as if a storm is passing through my body. Maybe first my stomach feels heavy, and I’ll watch as the heaviness starts to spread. I can usually name it: “Oh, here’s sorrow. Let me invite it in. Let me feel it fully.” It can shorten my breath to experience these things; tears come, and I fight to not fidget. I’ll watch the mind try to come up with stories, with reasons for pain. The only thing to do is keep falling into that still place, that quiet that lies beneath, and just observe. If I react, the emotions dig in. If I just observe, they rise up like storms that demand attention, that sway the trees and crash the jetties, and then leave behind the clear single note of an infinite bell.
My new thing is that I actively try to greet people I pass on the streets with a smile, or with a hello or a good morning. I stood in the park and felt myself in each person, from the old ladies doing aerobics to the yelling homeless guy on the corner. I felt myself in the couples on benches, the yuppies with dogs, the dogs. With a breath I felt compassion and peace blowing through my body and spilling into the park, a wave caressing the nervous systems of all in its path. We are together.
This is all I have. I will march and be vigilant and angry and worried and yet so far all I can come up with to try to help is this. To say: at the base of yourself is a vast field of truthful, peaceful energy. A place beneath the story and misery that holds you back. A place devoid of the fear of being open-hearted. A place non-reactive to perceived slights and injuries. A place that has let go of cynicism, no matter how fun. From this place, we come up with true solutions. Here we open to all possibilities of togetherness and compassion and are fearless to say, there is another way to create this reality. Be fearless with compassion! Look for ways to be of help and purpose with no reward. The reward, believe it or not, is stillness. Real peace. Real happiness.
I keep imagining the population of America surrounding our government buildings and just love-bombing the hell out of all those humans inside. If I can sit quietly, and in doing so find this infinite compassion for the person I’ve fought with my whole life, this Clementine, then why couldn’t I convince the people with direct power to affect change to change things for the better? Why couldn’t we just change someone’s entire path with enough acceptance and forgiveness, and assist them in creating a legacy in which they were the heroes? Because when you think about it, there is a very small group of people making these decisions in the world. They could, right this moment, rid the world of war. Rid the world of oppression. It is not difficult. We could say, “Your legacy will save the planet and create a new paradigm for humanity in which peace and prosperity washes over the world like a warm rain.” Who could resist being loved by all the world?
Well, why the hell not. War begets war. Oppression begets oppression. After about 6,000 years of civilization, I’m certainly ready to let it all go. There is enough money for everyone. Enough food, enough technology, enough energy, enough compassion and love. There is. When I fall into my heart, fall into this infinite plane, what do I really need? Take it all. Let me show you what I see.
Well back to the rainy day, and the snoring pug. “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” I love those words.
I have recorded a 30-minute meditation, which you can listen to at any time, here. I recommend listening with headphones on, in a nice comfortable position, where you can just be quiet for a while.
I wish you peace and stillness, moments in which you just take a breath and feel the wind on your skin, a sound you love in your ears. No matter the storm, there is always a clear light on the other side.
You can hear me read this here: https://soundcloud.com/clemthegreat/one-more-with-feeling?in=clemthegreat/sets/bliss-and-drumming