Tuesday, November 3, 2009

seeing in the dark

On the plane to Newark, North Liberty International Airport, that is, fear snuck up and gripped me like some sort of metal being inserted between the ribs. It happened too fast for me to tell what caused the sudden, heart numbing spikes, maybe it was the feeling of having lost footing I couldn't find again. Maybe it's a communal wave that swells through the cabin, through all of us who are reluctant to lift off the land.

I was dozing on the plane and kept encountering a slurry of images behind my eyelids, the wings coming off the plane, bolts breaking loose. Deep in the darkness of the irrational, at the mercy of the small cabin and its unrestrained heavings, I stopped trying to sleep.

Later there was a moment of stillness and I gained the clarity to see the fear coming, to watch its swagger and spike maneuver around me, behind me, to take me prisoner. There's something that happens in that sort of looking, when the fear becomes a tableaux not of you but in front of you, where you see not only its most arrogant assertions but also your own image in its arms, and the vision becomes only a greasy slick on the clear lens of the mind. For several moments in the fear chamber of the plane's cabin I practiced watching terror slip out of the unknown to make an image of myself to its dimensions. Whenever I could see that self as other, as simply a mysterious but familiar projection of unknown origin on a scrim of mist, I found the ground of freedom. It was hard at those times not to draw close to an image of stillness and intention to dispel illusion in the form of Prajna Paramita, wisdom's mother. My sincere thanks to the King of the Nagas and his disciple.

How does it work, that in modern times the idea of emptiness, which denotes grief, still can come to imply the ultimate freedom? I have to wonder about the mechanics of that reverse fold which transforms the experience of profound loss into extraordinarily rare equanimity when the idioms bleed into each other, and empty becomes full.

9 comments:

Kenmeer livermaile said...

I've been letting "slurry of images" fester in me pan. It's one of those proto-tropes that contains seeds of a thousand metaphors.

lubersa: Phillipine sea chantey derived from Spanish colonial music of Moorish background.

amarilla said...

Hope the festering doesn't become pustulant.

Synthetic Zero said...

Really beautiful post, Amarilla... it's remarkable how these things which seem to be intractable obstacles when we take them at the initial presentation can somehow become the basis of freedom when we see them more clearly. If your stability is anchored in emptiness it really is unshakable, because it can't be unmoored, since its roots come from emptiness?

amarilla said...

Thanks for reading, Mitsu. I've found mahamudra most amazing and satisfying, but have a hard time finding the time and strong intention lately. The plane really forced the excercise.

To root oneself in emptiness is the same as rooting oneself in the unknowable. I am beginning to call this Ecstatic Agnosis.

Kenmeer livermaile said...

"Ecstatic Agnosis"

Great name for a character from Joyce. Or L'il Abner.

meney: plural of eeney

Kenmeer livermaile said...

The very word, 'emptiness', mocks. A semantic container of emptiness: how does one contain that which is not?

We live in perpetual emptiness. Engulfed in stuff, all of it 'containing' emptiness, all of it perfectly void of nothingness.

Surrender to determination as you bend to the wind. Give in to intent. Life is a series of mismatched paradoxes whose originally perfect symmetry got lost between the dryer and the sock drawer.

sormid: a string of letters presented by blog comment cyberbots as merely a randomly chosen password that are really part of an ongoing exploration of human language by digital sentience.

Kenmeer livermaile said...

"Deep in the darkness of the irrational, at the mercy of the small cabin and its unrestrained heavings, I stopped trying to sleep."

I have this itch to see this transposed and altered accordingly so that the cabin is some dark irrational pilot's cockpit, and the unrestrained heaving is that of your consciousness.

rexerg: king of joules

amarilla said...

The very word, 'emptiness', mocks. A semantic container of emptiness: how does one contain that which is not?

Very good, Kenmeer, you've emptied emptiness. I would expect no less.

Kenmeer livermaile said...

You are a harsh taskmistress. In the next life you'll be some statuesque broad with 40 arms and a serious rack poised in a perpetually ready to spring roundhouse kick of enlightenment.

scruct: Ukrainian customs agent slang for 'contraband stashed in undies'.