Friday, June 5, 2009

It's Noisy In Here

Today was our third day on the small island we are staying on and it feels like I've slowed down to something approx-imating "island time".  Not that I consider myself a speedy person, but it's like when you go on retreat and at some point you just settle into it.  Here, there is less to be done, more sitting time, more walking time, time for an afternoon nap.

And in the quiet, more isolated island life it is interesting to see that less Dharma "tidbits" are served up to me, the hot flaming morsels of everyday life that burn as they go down.  It reminds me of the story of the monk who sat in a cave in meditation for 20 years and felt very calm and peaceful and then rejoins the world.  With the first nudging he pushes right back.  There is no one nudging me here.  The rubbing up against others than can seem so painful seems minimal here.  The opportunities for practicing with your jagged edges are less.  And in a way that is a good thing, a pause, a breath, a small reprieve.  I think we need this sometimes.  It's like an opportunity to digest, as if we're a snake who just swallowed some Dharma frog, all whole and wriggly.   

I am savouring it all:  the quiet, the breeze, the abundance of air, just spending most of the day outside.  Out here you get to sense the energy of the natural world when you slow down.  Today I took a nap on the grass, pressed up against the earth, soaking up its energy.  Such a healing thing.  How often do we do this when we live in the city?  We are getting to know the eagles we are feeding: the shy one that will watch the chicken leg we toss out but seldom come for it, and the other one that will swoop down almost instantly and scoop up the offering.  We can tell them apart because they always sit on different branches, the shy one always comes first and sits on the top branch, turning his head almost full circle, watching in all directions.  Today when we thought he was checking our menu offering, he glided to the ocean (an enormous distance) and scooped up a fish.  The eagles are spooked by us because we are not the usual folks that live here.  Would you think an eagle could distinguish between one of us humans and another.  Almost instantly it seems, by our movements, our habits, by who knows what.  We are different enough to make them wary.  Such are the wonders of the natural world when you have time to hang out there.

I have been thinking about noise, partly because it is quiet here but also because there is still noise, barking dogs, voices carrying across the water, a generator here, some music wafting in from a fish boat radio.  At home I have been feeling pressed by noise on either side of my house for a variety of reasons.  It has become my latest koan.  Partly it happens as people spend more time outside, partly because of changes in the rental house next door.  It is not my preferences that are a problem, it is my attachment to them.  The noise raises irritation in me and then I add on by wishing it didn't bother me.  As is always the case I create my own suffering.  First by pushing away the noise and then by pushing away, my pushing away, if you know what I mean.  I could suffer once, but apparently I prefer to supersize the suffering (would you like fries with that?)

When I looked at what bothered me about the noise in my neighbourhood last week I saw something interesting.  When the  dog was barking next door and the owners partying in the backyard I wasn't responding just to the noise as it was at that moment but my mind had done a fast frame to the future.  I was worrying that this noise would make our house hard to sell when the time comes.  Imagined situations, imagined outcomes, kind of like the Mark Twain quote that goes something like: "My life has been a series of tragedies, some of which have actually happened."  It's one thing to feel annoyed at a bark, it's another thing to turn it into a pack of rabid dogs ruining your life.  My mind is kind of like a ferrari, from present to future projection in 6 seconds or less.

And so when I came to this quiet rural setting and heard all kinds of sounds I realized that if you don't make peace in some way with your "noise" whatever it is, it will follow you around wherever you go.  This metaphorical noise will get louder and louder and more painful until you look it in the eye and address it in the form that it needs to be addressed in.  We all have these lovely bittersweet koans,  the ones that make us crazy but will give us great peace when we finally approach them and find that whatever it was we thought was snarling and drooling at us, really requires our attention and compassion.  It is different than we imagined and making friends with it in some way will set us free.  It is the most courageous thing we will ever do, look at what makes us crazy, really see it and make peace with it in some way.   I am talking to myself now.  I just hope I don't have my hands over my ears.

1 comment:

  1. It sounds so wonderful, where you are! I so need a vacation.

    I have had that noise koan myself, especially last year when I was having "issues" with the neighbor's loud TV. I eventually did complain to the landlord, and the sound was dealt with, but not until I was able to break through terribly repetitive thoughts about how the neighbor didn't respect me, was rude, etc. It seems taking things personally is very tied to our suffering.