From the Five Percent of Thought

In the park. We lie for a while in a respectable manner. The pug is obsessed with other picnics and I finally get tired of his wanderings and begging for more treats, and we get up and ramble around the park. He snaps at a Huskie in the dog run area, so we take our business to the top of the park, where the big trees moan and squeak. There is a configuration of several branches that the wind sets to crying every time I am at the top of this hill; the white eucalyptus branches must be rubbed raw by now in this frictional embrace. Still, they seem to shriek with joy.

The sun is so warm and we have no place to go, so when we get to the other side of the hill, I throw the blanket down among the buttercups and fling myself there, on my stomach, back to the heat of the sun, and big trees sing in the wind. I give the dude one last salmon treat and he gobbles it down and then lolls in the grass. I can tell he is surprised at his fortune to get to stay a while longer in the park, the place he loves so dearly.

I don’t take my shoes off. I just lie there, the leash around my wrist as the dog traipses back and forth over me to find his position. He rests next to my leg, needing contact. I listen to the leaves, their soft cheering frantic then soft. In the background is the wide drone of city, and I start to imagine that this sound is the weight of the ocean hitting the sand, miles away. Just how far can I hear, really? I investigate the auditory levels, separating the sounds into tiers: the voice of a woman speaking to her child, a siren very far away, airplanes, jet and propeller. Car tires, a dog barking, the rise and fall of some manner of machinery, digging or drilling. I see the waveforms as if I’m looking into my music editing program, and then I just place the different frequencies in my mind’s eye, so they shimmer or undulate like wind currents higher or nearer above. There is the very high whistle of tinnitus up with the feather white clouds, here underneath me the very low moan of the Earth heavy with the weight of population. Which sound travels furthest to reach my hearing?

I think of the thin earthquake waves that travel quickly side to side and scatter out with first shot, and then the long land-shifting vertical waves that upend earth. In the magic light of San Francisco, the promise of catastrophe deepens all color.

I heard that there is a current of water that sits at the perfect depth for the pressure of sea above and below to form a perfect kind of transmitting wave. Like a radio signal it can send whale song far distances. When scientists traveled to some of the lowest depths of the ocean, they thought to put a microphone on top of the craft. They were shocked to hear that it was a loud and cacophonous place, with little idea of what any of the sounds they were hearing were.

Really. How can you get more magical than that?

It has been slow going for me, recognizing bird song in this city. I know the crows of course, and the jays, the twit and scream of the hummingbird, the robins, the parrots. I think that sharp yelp I hear is finch cry. I don’t know what those mottled black birds prancing near us in the grass sing.

Parrots fly overhead in a big flock, and they stagger en masse noisily across the sky of the park. I love how they seem as though they’re arguing as they go. I love how they seem to blink in and out of the air, looking like still-frame animation flipping pages across the sky.

I lose all sound in tree song again, and then silence, and then bird song. Circular, rhythmic breath of the day, flowing across me just as the sun gets too hot. Then, falling away of thought and of naming. Here again is the infinite, and I become the whole.

My meditation practice often starts with sound. First, I love the sound of a chime or a bell, how it instantly stills and opens my mind. I follow the ring down the well of silence, fall into the absence when the bell is gone. I look for places of no sound. Awareness, still and infinitely silent beneath. The most difficult place to find is the space without language. Sometimes, when I look to see Awareness I hear the word “Awareness,” and then I laugh as I get frustrated. No! No language! My head spins; my body tenses. What am I trying to do, anyway? Why am I trying at all?

I just let go. I let go of this internal brain conversation. I fall underneath, underneath language, underneath sound, underneath sense and body. Here is awareness of Awareness.

Yesterday, I watched a video of Sean Webb, recounting his enlightenment experience. Later in the day I sat in meditation and was dismayed to see myself chasing his language, his experiences. Chasing awakening is an oxymoron. I should know this by now.

When I walk through the city I’m often listening to podcasts, ideas and information that feed my mind in a nourishing and thrilling way. All the information I take in and all of the frustration for that which I don’t know is a vibrating energy traveling through my veins. My mind is hungry for information, grasping, ravenous. No wonder I have such difficulty in letting go of listening to the language of my brain.

But now, I’m going to let it go. I have time to myself for several days coming up, and I will conduct an experiment. Nothing in. No listening. No watching. The only reading, the short sentences in the small manual that I read before bed. Writing, meditating. Listening. Walking and tending to the dog. Music playing or writing. Dreaming.

I don’t think I’ve ever done this before. From the time I can remember, I feel that I was reading pretty much non-stop. I remember being so frustrated that walking and reading at the same time was so difficult. I tried though, a few steps, a line of text, a few steps, a line of text. I see now that my need for information has been ravenous. I don’t know why. I can feel that desire in my body, though. It feels like glorious chaos.

The idea of letting it all go feels like a kind of blasphemy. I will take nothing in, and even the idea of that seems new and strange, as if I have never had this thought before. I have read that only 5% of thoughts we have every day are brand new. Maybe this is one of those.

The 4:00 church chimes begin. We are home now, and the fog has settled in, carrying sound the way it does. I hear the crows outside again. I think they might have scared off the bluejays from the garden. A few days ago there was a big kerfuffle back there, with three crows, bluejays screaming and hummingbirds dive-bombing the crows’ heads. I thought the crows were attacking the hummingbird nest, but my bluejays have disappeared. I heard one calling in the park this morning, but I couldn’t make him out. I try not to let this bother me, but I’m bothered. Bothered by things I can’t change, bothered by change. It will be good to be just still and silent for a while.

The pug snores. I fall underneath language, and emotions rise and disperse. I watch as language flashes and dissolves, flashes and dissolves.


You can listen to me read this here:

4 thoughts on “From the Five Percent of Thought”

  1. You’ve written about listening to sounds before, but this time the way you talked about it reminded me of something. When I first heard your music, the main thing that struck me was how much it seemed like you were influenced by the rhythms occurring in nature. For me, with most music I hear the melody more than the rhythm. I like your melodies too, but there’s something different about your rhythm that really pulls me into the music. Maybe a natural ebb and flow that makes me feel more connected to the world? Anyway, I have no idea what it means, if anything, but that’s what I hear when I listen to your music.

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