I’ve always struggled with my own heaviness during seated meditation. I relax quickly – disconnecting from the body is easy – but I sink, untethered in this way. It’s like being dropped in dark water, and feeling icy, unpredictable currents flowing around my thighs, over the sensitive skin of my upper, inner arms. I can abandon my body, but not the metaphors of pain.
Not having much affinity for Freudian therapy, I don’t believe understanding where it comes from will ever help the feeling go away.
Running is different. I can focus on my breath, and on my body as the point of entry with this world and the source of all my experience. I disconnect by observing connection. Circles of awareness that must include the root-tangled earth, and often include birdsong.
After watching the film To Spring from the Hand, a documentary about the former dancer and potter Paulus Berensohn, I decided to try seated meditation while working with clay.
Pay attention to the breath, he says.
And I do. The breath, and the slowness that comes. The balance of wills: my will and that of the clay. Give and take. Inhale and exhale. My mind through my body, connected to the earth.
Dale Favier has taught poetry, chopped vegetables, and written software for a living. Currently he works part-time as a massage therapist. He is a Buddhist, in the Tibetan tradition.
Favier has an M.Phil. in English Literature from Yale, but he never wrote much poetry until he began blogging.His poems have appeared in Qarrtsiluni and The Ouroborus Review. His first book, Opening the World is available through Pindrop Press.
When and why did you start writing poetry?
I wrote a few poems when I was young, I’m sure, but it didn’t become a serious way of expressing myself until I was in my forties. I had read an enormous amount of poetry by that time, but I didn’t really think of poetry as something that modern people could do. I had a degree in medieval English literature, so I knew all the oldest poetry from Beowulf on — I loved the Romantics and liked the Victorians — but then my interest petered out. I actually learned to appreciate modern poetry by writing it. That happened by accident: I started blogging in 2003, and some of the bloggers I knew — Dave Bonta especially — had the startling habit of writing verse from time to time, as if it was a perfectly normal thing to do. So I just started playing with it from time to time, and it grew on me. And now that I have a sense of the modern community of poetry, I can read it with some understanding.
There is the great myth of the tortured artist. How do you deal with the “romance” our culture has with the poet-in-pain, in terms of your identity as a poet and as a mother, father, partner, friend, role-model?
I don’t identify as a poet, really, so all that stuff just goes on by. I’ve never wanted to make my living at it, and I have no ambition to make a reputation or gain immortality. I just like to read and write poems. For me it’s correspondence: love-letters, mostly. I don’t need more than a few readers. I don’t think of myself as being a special person, or wanting special recognition from the world, because I write poems. And contrawise, I don’t expect to suffer more than anyone else. We all suffer plenty.
Are you consciously trying to shape the story of your life?
No. My life is not a story. It’s just a life.
As poets we are continually exploring our sensual experience of the world. How does your relationship with your body, with your body in the world (interacting socially, with nature, through pain/change) affect your writing.
And vice versa?: In other words, does the practice of your writing, your poet’s attention to the word, affect how you physically feel, and interact with other people, with nature, through pain/changes in your body?
I’m a massage therapist by trade, so my hands are on bodies a lot: so I have a very embodied imagination. The facts of breathing and heartbeat make it into a lot of my poems; the sensations of the skin; facts of anatomy. A lot of my poetry is making verbal what my hands register when they’re touching someone — the moments when discomfort and tension resolve, and move into something else, the half-illusion of perfect sympathy, the outpourings of tenderness. I have a deep love of human bodies, all of them, including the ones that are breaking down and dying. So when I write I tend to write about bodies and touch, I think.