Sometimes I forget completely
what companionship is.
Unconscious and insane, I spill sad
energy everywhere. My story
gets told in various ways: a romance,
a dirty joke, a war, a vacancy.
Divide up my forgetfulness to any number,
it will go around.
These dark suggestions that I follow,
are they part of some plan?
Friends, be careful. Don’t come near me
out of curiosity, or sympathy.
Oh how I forget sometimes what companionship is, what union is, what clear love and integrity we are at our cores made of, and the creativity of spirit we witness in life. Everywhere companionship emanates, and yet I, foggy, unclear, and confused, sometimes forget and thrash around looking for God as though I had been separated from it by someone or something else other than myself. And in that separation how petulant, reactive, sad, irritable, and piteous I become! Like so many Rumi poems, sloshing around knee deep in fresh clear water, knocking around my apartment looking for an appropriate cup to drink out of and growing more and more thirsty all the time.
And as funny as it is, it’s serious too. As many have said, including Rumi, you can become separated in this life. Not separated permanently or irrevocably, but we can experience and get lost in separation when we do not take care. There are practices and ways that can keep you close to God, and there are other ways that can dry you out, make you forgetful, and leave you thirsty in the face of abundance. Seek out companions on your path, listen to a teachers presence “for such people a person’s presence is more to learn from than a book,” listen for the sounds that walnuts make as they hit the water, and stay awake!
I have had practices that kept me awake and in the flow of sacred water, yet they’ve grown weak and somewhat lackluster these days and I have realized that I haven’t been tending my practice, allowing it to grow and change and speak to me about what it should be each day. A week or more ago a friend at my house was asked by another friend whether he had a daily practice or meditated every day. Without missing a beat he refused to answer the question, and said that this was private and he would not talk about it. His tone was one almost of irritated jealousy. I don’t think he was irritated, but in his tone was a part of his truth, that for him to keep his practice in integrity he couldn’t talk about it as though it were something either commonplace or permanent, he couldn’t characterize it in one way and circumscribe it from becoming something else.
He went on to talk about how if he were to say that he meditated every day, and then he didn’t one day, what would that mean? Is there hypocrisy? What does it mean about my practice (as though it could be anything different from exactly how it manifests in actuality)? Have I betrayed myself? Others? God? You see, If I tell you what I do as though it is a constant, I engage with the belief that we have a constant self and I step out of the living breathing changing fluctuating self that I really am and thus out of connection with the source of that internal movement or flow which we also refer to as life force or god. When I seek to define myself and my relationships what happens when they inevitably change? I could say I do sometimes, or even most of the time, or almost every day, but the meaning this gives you and the meaning it holds for me are different and there is something profane in trying to approximate or communicate what this is in terms of what the practice looks like.
Many times over the last few years I’ve discussed my practice with others. While seeking to inspire or motivate people seems to an important part of some of the activities that are important to me and thus could even be considered an small aspect of my practice, I’m realizing that I haven’t taken good care of my practice and that I really need to think about what is okay to share, and what needs to be held close and kept private.
Though we create our lives and the future through actions and the way that we lead our lives there is something dangerous in identifying with what how we spend our time makes us. This is particularly true with a “spiritual path” as there can be two things no more contradictory that trying to humble yourself regularly before God and serve others while simultaneously seeking the praise of others and a lofty egoic identity.
Sometimes it’s hard for me to admit that even while I know better I have jeopardized what is most sacred and valuable to me for something as profane as the identity of my ego. I know that to experience the intimacy that has made having a practice such a jewel in my life, that it must be my own relationship, not a tool for anything. In my friends quick response he protected his sense of companionship, his relationship with the One, and the integrity of what is most valuable to him. I loved reading this poem this morning on my birthday because it resonates with how I’ve been feeling lately and reminds me that we all go through periods of estrangement from ourselves and the one. We tell stories about who we are or what we’re doing, blowing hot air or cold air into our chests, building ourselves up or breaking ourselves down until we’re reminded to let go of all these tales and again lay down our prayer rug and begin again. Start now, silently drink from the water of your spirit, wake early when the day is not calling you out yet, and ask questions. Don’t write down the answers, just keep asking, and listening.