Rasma Says

Musings, deliberations, flashes of unaccounted for brilliance…

Reading the Ocean

The first time I ever tried meditating, it turned into a writing experience. I didn’t intend to write but, you see, I was failing the meditation task.

Unlike my soft spoken smiling friends who were enlightened and meditated at the Zen dojo, I was unable to see visions or hear voices or turn off my constant flow of derisive thoughts – you can’t do this this is dumb why isn’t anything happening what does it mean to meditate am I supposed to just sit here feeling stupid did I lock the door when will I know if five minutes have passed am I allowed to open my eyes and look at my watch no stupid that would break the meditation but there isn’t any meditation I’m just sitting here pretending to meditate but it doesn’t work I can’t do it I don’t know how what am I doing wrong it can’t be that this is what they mean by mediation it’s like church when I used to wonder if for everyone else prayer was the same as thinking thoughts in your head just admit it you can’t meditate you’re a fake a fraud a meditation failure but you’re not even going to admit that are you you’re going to just sit here and let people think you are locked into this room because you are meditating and pretty soon you’ll float out of here all calm and collected and ooooommm but you know you can’t even do it right not even for five measly minutes what a loser

Having, as I am wont to, a blank book and pen at hand, my frustration led one day to a sudden impulse to pick up the pen. When it touched the paper it was like the veil being rent, a shattering bolt left me bereft of everything except my hand writing, and the writing was without thinking, and the writing became the meditation experience.

I wrote during a 5 minute daily meditation on the ocean that lasted six weeks. Only later when I did another meditation, forty days in a green field, did I notice the significance of the time frame. No longer were Noah’s forty days in the flood or Jesus’ forty days in the desert so mysterious. I believe we can all benefit from forty days of imposed isolation, even if it is just for five minutes a day.

Some of my five minute meditations took longer, because there was more writing to do. I always knew when to start writing and when to stop, and most of the journal entries started out with a title. They were poems. At the end of that summer I had filled a couple blank sketchbooks and emptied a lot of pen bellies of their ink.

The poems fit together as a sequence, and believing that this sequence could be of interest to others, I set about typing them up. I have many versions of the manuscript as it evolved over the years on my computer. The files have names like “August Edited Ocean” and “Send Out Ocean 3” but only recently, in fact a couple weeks ago, did it occur to me that instead of editing the poems once again, I could type them up in their original form. I opened the journals and began typing. It was a gallop, a pure pleasure, a smooth running river of words from page one to page one hundred and something. It amazed me to think that back when I finished the meditation, the first thing I did was begin to edit it. Talk about letting your little thinking brain take over.

As people who frequent dojos might say, I wasn’t ready.

Now with the poems all typed up I saw they fell into logical sequential sections. Hmmm, the definite shape of a book was appearing. It was time to print and read them aloud. I usually have Veronica or Kazi read my work out loud, for only then can I really hear what needs editing. I wanted to go through the ocean poems and listen for spots where a word or line break might need minor adjustment, but I was hesitant to ask Veronica to read them. What if… well, there were lots of what if’s – the little thinking brain never runs out of things to say, does it?

Finally the opportunity to read the ocean poems presented itself. I would read and she would knit Bia’s Christmas socks. I can’t knit as well as she can, or I would have reversed the roles. I felt awkward reading aloud myself, self-conscious about my sometimes hillbilly accent and inability to read with expression. It felt like I had a cardboard jaw, but I started reading.

As a teacher, I always make students follow along on the page when listening to someone read. This stems from my personal insecurity and wondering if people who don’t have a piece of paper in their hands get anything out of listening to me read. Even at public poetry readings I used to have copies of my poems available for people to look at. However, Veronica sat holding only her knitting in her brown leather chair and I sat holding the photocopied poems in my brown leather chair, our feet up on a common footstool facing the wood stove. She knit and I stumbled along, trying to ignore the little voice in the back of my brain shouting like an offstage prompter: why the hell aren’t you better at reading aloud than you are aren’t you supposed to be a reading specialist listen to you making even the ocean poems sound stupid. I got to the end of the first section, a handful of short poems, and stopped. She kept knitting the heel on the sock but I could tell she was thinking.

“Are you able to follow? Should I continue?” I ventured.

“I’m just wondering,” she said slowly, her eyes never leaving the knitting. “Why when you write so beautifully aren’t we rich?”

I laughed.
With tears in my eyes.
I think it’s the highest compliment anyone’s paid my writing.

One answer is that the poems, except for a few published individuals, have been locked away in truncated form in my computer.

The true answer, of course, is that we are rich. These poems have made me richer than even I in all my greedy fantasies could imagine was possible. My life began all over again with the ocean meditation. Like John the Baptist or Jesus or Noah, I emerged from my forty days radically altered. I literally felt that I had completed one lifetime, that it had ended, but without actually having to die I was allowed the privilege of being born full grown into a new one. No matter what hardships, depression, annoyance, irritation, stupidity, illness, conflict or disaster I have caused others or brought upon myself since then, I cannot go back to being the way I was pre-ocean. It’s not possible. I wouldn’t want to, but if I did it would not be possible.

It occurred to me on my walk to school today that while I might chide myself for neglecting the ocean poems for so long, not even typing the poor things properly up, in my post-ocean life I am just nearing pre-adolescence. The thought made me smile.

It suddenly explained a lot.

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This entry was posted on 06/12/2007 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , .

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