Loosened Into Non-Being and Beginning Again

This is one of those mornings where my tea is already cold as I open the computer program. My routine crumbled even before I got out of bed. And as I type this Norwegian words keep intruding in my inner monolog, which is rare. I don’t want to use the world crumble. “Smuldre” comes to mind instead. I think this means I am primed to write poetry today. Onomatopoeia taking precedence over everything this morning. My personal, physical relationship with words.

Crumbles. “Like a cookie”. Dry, granular.
Smuldre opp. It is a perfect translation for crumble, but the sm sound feels softer. It’s still dry but not granular – more like old paper. Dust.

I suppose being an outsider means having a peculiar relationship to a new language as a boxful of tiny objects to make sense of and piece together. A second language rarely arrives in context.

I over-analyze the shape and sound and discrete parts of each word. I experience imaginative literal (and visceral) origins of phrases. Å gå i oppløsning: To become loosened into non-being. It’s not the same thing as dissolve. It feels different on an emotional level. And for me, all emotions begin as physical sensations.

The thing is I can’t write in Norwegian because how I feel the language and how it is read and understood by native speakers are two different things. Norwegians will argue with me (and be right, of course) that both cookies and wet paper smuldrer.

When I write, I often wind up searching for a way to translate my understanding of a Norwegian phrase back into English. Norwegian has become a kind of poetry tool for me to play with. A shift in perspective that is almost magical. Probably because it comes from a place of ignorance.

I think of Picasso when he talked about the art of trying to paint like a child. This, years after he’d learned classical painting techniques. He wanted to de-familiarize himself with painting.

“It took me four years to paint like Raphaelbut a lifetime to paint like a child.”

– Pablo Picasso

I have a lot of personal issues with Picasso as a role model of any sort, but I do think that there is a value in going back to pick up dropped stitches – things we let go of along the way that can provide us a kind of structural integrity for our creative perspectives/pursuits/contributions.

I think that this is just another way of talking about “The Beginner’s Mind”.

The creativity coach Jen Louden talks about beginning again – always beginning again. But I am now putting that together with a deeper understanding. This doesn’t mean picking up where you left off and continue. It means pulling back, shaking it off, and beginning again from a point of ignorance—with the integrity of experience, but not using experience as a pathfinder.

Begin. The word doesn’t begin with a breathy vowel, rising passively on the continuation of an exhalation. It is plosive. Explosive. It’s the new calf being let out of the barn in spring.

It also ends in n, the tongue vibrating on top of the mouth.

It’s a nice feeling.

An Ordinary Day

Last night I fell asleep on the shakti mat. E. says I snore when that happens. Hardly the image that I’m ( — uh — not) striving for with my meditation practice.

I read textbooks for another two hours before bed then woke thinking about work. But I felt refreshed none-the-less. They weren’t stressful work thoughts, but energizing ideas. It’s been a long time since I felt this way about my job. And I can’t point to any reason for things to have changed.

Something has lifted. Even in this darkness.

We ran this morning in the cold, then I did my morning yoga practice and meditation. It never fails: 20 minutes into the asana work, I lie down for a bridge and Leonard takes it as a cue to lie with his head on my face. His chin on my lips. I think maybe he thinks he is doing me a favor: indirectly pinning my shoulders to the floor so I get an even deeper arch as I lift my hips toward the ceiling. But it could be that he is just being a jerk. Sucking out my breath like a demon cat.

To be honest, these kinds of mornings make me nervous. This “high”, for no reason. This clear-headed, spacious sense of time and equanimity. This “lightness” that threatens like a helium balloon that I may lose my grip on.

This familiar sweet-spot before mania.

I haven’t written about bipolar tendencies for a very long time, and didn’t intend to today: what thoughts come, when one questions the present.

Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.ALBERT CAMUS

They say “Trust is earned.” But I am thinking that trust is also learned. Finding this middle path between distrust and blind trust, and knowing that staying in the moment doesn’t require trust at all: it requires relinquishing the fear that is rooted in thoughts of the future. I can give all my attention to the moment and spare myself disappointments. It also requires giving up my hopes.

It’s about being a realist: hopes and fears are both imaginary.

“Trust me, everything will be okay.”

“Trust me, everything changes: stay in this moment and breathe in through the nose.”

I know far less than I’d like to about Albert Camus. And about Dharma. I’ve often considered setting up a structured plan for investigation, but at the moment, I rather like how ideas wander into my field of perception and juxtapose themselves with one another.

I believe this is also a kind of beginner’s mind.

In happy baby pose — Leonard having given up on me, and stretched himself over the sofa — I notice the chandelier’s shadow stretching over the ceiling. Fading, as the sun rises and shines through the glass doors.

I consider the concept of generosity, and it juxtaposes in my mind with equanimity, and I visualize a natural spring and a basin of water. I consider the wastefulness of a stagnant pool. I consider a water clock and decide I want one for Christmas.

I don’t think I am doing this right.

So for today, I’m giving up on expectations. I sit here with a cup of coffee, a white computer screen, and an inarticulate image for a poem that’s going nowhere.

I’ll sit until it’s time to catch the train.