Sunday, June 5, 2011

Giving Way to Wonder

So here's the thing about living on an island: if your daughter's plane doesn't arrive until 11pm,  there's no way you can make the 11:15 ferry.  Which means you sit, first in traffic (Seattle has TWO stadiums right by the ferry dock, and I think both games must have ended around 11:30 last night), and then in the ferry line until 12:45 (hey, if we had missed that ferry we'd be stuck until the 2:10!), so when you finally get to bed it's around 2 am.  Which is 5 am if you just flew in from the East Coast.  So we got off to a bit of a late start this morning -- and I missed church, though I had really intended to go.

The good news (other than that, well, yeah, we get to live on an island, and it's a beautiful day, and I have both my girls home!) is that I had the house to myself for a nice long while in the morning, so I had a longer meditation than usual, and, ohmigosh, I realized (listening to the birds and the waves with my newly returned daughter's ecstatic ears) that I hear in colors.

I know.  It sounds weird, and probably is; my older daughter actually wrote a paper about this in high school, when we realized letters had colors for both of us: it's a condition called synaesthesia, and involves a mixing, a sort of cross-pollination of the senses.  but I'm not sure I've ever noticed before that sound, for me, is really (obviously somewhere below normal attention) a constant parade of shapes and colors.

Why this matters today is connected to that realization in the ferry line that I wrote of yesterday, and somehow related to two passages I read this morning in Welwood's Toward a Psychology of Awakening:

"The fix-it mentality only really works on the gross outer level of things.  When trying to repair a car or a pipe in the kitchen sink, it is appropriate to take a wrench and exert pressure against the hardened rust to get the nut to turn.  But approaching an inner problem in this way usually has the opposite effect, causing the problem to seize up all the more.  This is because the part of us we are trying to fix feels unacceptable or rejected, and therefore tightens up."

and then this: "Why is it so hard to just let our experience be what it is?  Why are we so uncomfortable with it?  What is this uneasiness we feel in relation to our own feelings and states of mind? The nature of our dis-ease is this: we continually judge, reject, and turn away from certain areas of our experience that cause us discomfort, pain, or anxiety.  This inner struggle keeps us inwardly divided, creating pressure and stress and cutting us off from the totality of who we are."

So -- after the release and acceptance I felt yesterday in acknowledging the inner conflict between who I am and who I think I'm supposed to be, today I just decided to relax into the space that created and see what rose up.  Which is when I realized (yes, this could have been me distracting myself!) that the sounds of the morning -- the refrigerator, the birds, the waves, my neighbor taking his boat out -- all have colors, and paint themselves across the surface of my mind, which becomes an ever-changing canvas.

Here I've been spending this time looking for images that have shapes I can paint into (like the one you saw yesterday), when, in fact, the shapes are already there, constantly shifting across the landscape of my mind as I listen.  So then I thought, ooh, what if I use existing pictures as a palette, and paint to music?  Doesn't that sound like fun?  Now, if I can only let go of the tendency to realism and just allow the shapes to emerge; doesn't that seem like a way to open access to parts of experience that may be lying dormant in me?  And then, because a picture needs both light and dark, I could invite my darker feelings to voice themselves, and wouldn't that ultimately mean that the picture that is my life might be more balanced?

Yes -- I know, I'm mixing metaphors here.  And this is probably pretty woo-woo.  But there's confusion and wonder here, which makes me think immediately of Logion Two in the Gospel of Thomas:

Yeshua says...

If you are searching, you must not stop until you find.
When you find, however, you will become troubled.
Your confusion will give way to wonder.
In wonder you will reign over all things.
Your sovereignty will be your rest.


I think it's important to stay with the process: to keep exploring, even when things seem odd or strange or scary; to "lean into it," as Pema Chodron says, so we can feel that giving way to wonder...

Somehow this seems like the perfect moment to share a wonderful poem sent to me by one of my readers: (Thank you, Spencer):

Meditatio

In the back’s low hollow sometimes
a weightless hand guides me, gentle pressure
so I tack soft as a sailboat. (Go there)

Soften the space between your eyes (smudge
of eucalyptus), the third eye
opens. There’s the wide vermilion sky

that cradled us before birth,
and the sun pours its golden sap
to preserve me like His precious insect.


-- Mary Karr in "Sinners Welcome"

Enough, now; I shall go make waffles, and see what the day brings...

3 comments:

Maureen said...

Thank you for sharing the excerpt from Mary Karr's poem.

Your tremendous sense of color has its source in synaethesia: that is so cool.

karen gerstenberger said...

FYI: there was a U2 concert at Qwest field last night. I'm guessing that it got out around the time you were heading for the boat. You were probably surrounded by ecstatically happy music fans, who were also - perhaps - hearing in color! xoxo

drw@bainbridge.net said...

Oh, so THAT's why there was so much traffic! Oy! And yes, we were probably all hearing colors together, drifting off in the ozone instead of inching our cars forward...

Thanks!