After the retreat, I had a few days of consciousness. When I say "consciousness" I mean I was not dyssynchronous, a term I made up to describe how, especially in anxiety, we either get ahead of or behind ourselves, which in my case makes for many minor domestic accidents--a bump on the head, some broken glass, a burn while cooking. These sorts of things don't happen when I'm present. As Kathleen says, "There he goes again, galloping off in all directions at once."
How much of my mind's busyness is due to anxiety and how much to my mood disorder and how much to my fertile imagination and how these three are related, no one can say. But I remember as a young child, say five, how I could be present with a pool of leaves or while observing a caterpillar or capturing a lizard. It is a dream of mine to be more present, to be in the moment without my mind floating away to other things. Nowis what's important. That's where we live. You can always take time to plan, but you must not grasp your plans too tightly, as if you could control the future; you will always need to flex, to make adjustments, to make room for God.
There is also the knowledge of when you can't be present, or choose not to, or arbitrarily shift to being present with something or someone else. Certainly the composition of a sonnet does better without interruptions, but should a neighbor appear at the door, I can make a decision about either telling him to come in or asking his pardon to finish my work first. It takes self-knowledge to decide. Then the script and the choice are always made easier by mitigating circumstances, i.e., your neighbor is weeping and holding a dead pet. In that case you don't have to worry about the sonnet at all as the man's grief draws you away as it should. And then you are present with a grieving man.
Everyone knows what I'm talking about. To not be present is how most accidents happen. "The Miracle of Mindfulness" is what I mean, though I never finished that book. I'm no mystic but I could sure use more training in this discipline, because it is no miracle but the unredacted state we ought to enjoy most of the time. Today's sonnet broaches the question:
Conscious and present, to treat all things
As holy, the way you grasp a spoon or knife--
Stay with it and watch your imaginings
Yield to this moment. This is your life
Frame by frame. It's your story to tell,
A one-act play God made up for the stars.
The audience is dead, invisible
So lose your understudy. There's no cause
To think of who's ahead and who's behind.
This is your moment and it always was,
When you forget your role, and deaf and blind
Feel your way through. Put the show on pause.
Finger your spoon and forget about its use
Until the grapefruit comes. Revel in juice.
Also, that sense of concentration in childhood to which I referred is demonstrated by another poem:
As much as we arborealize,
the central trunk
should be a corpus callosum
to dip into
like water of heartwood,
each twig accessible,
the journey reversible:
red-cheeked on my tricycle
with a battered cowboy hat
admiring a pool
of autumn leaves.
Wherever we go
we should be able to go
back and out another
up the green fuse
to the white explosion
the scraping of palms
on stucco at night,
fearful pteranadon wings,
or taking acid at fourteen
naked in the Big Sur river,
its bottom stones littered
with sycamore gold.
(Depublished and available for publication)
At rodent neutral,