On Saturday I drove to Spirit Rock for a daylong on poetry and the Dharma. I left later than planned, and also found myself stuck in unexpected traffic. Taking a deep breath, I checked Google maps for an alternate route. As I left the jam, I felt the tension in my body dissipate, only to return when I tried to get on the same freeway a little further north and found the onramp blocked.
What the hell do I do now???
You know the feeling of fight-flight-freeze that arises in you like a volcano ready to explode at any given moment. Do I blame freeway construction? Do I blame myself for not checking traffic conditions and leaving earlier? Do I stay stuck in this storyline without an option to change it?
I noticed all of these thought options pounding against my skull with such violent force, begging for release. Then, I heard another voice.
Pull over, Kaveri. Just stop. Trust me on this one.
So I pulled over. I still felt the tension, but I also felt the breath of life flowing through me like summer rain after a prolonged drought. I knew how to find another route, to reach my destination and feel more at ease. It might take more time, but I sensed I would be OK.
During the morning meditation, I felt a poem gestating within, aching to be born from the stillness. After the sound of the bell, I scribbled a few lines in my journal, confident they would take me somewhere.
As the day progressed, we read several poems on joy, sorrow, and grief together. The words in my journal felt like puny, flickering stars that paled in comparison to the light of these full moon poems. Who was I? I wasn’t a real poet. So what if I had a moment of insight on my drive here!
I still say and do things that are unskillful. My mind still swings back and forth like a monkey on a trapeze clamoring for attention, anything to take me away from here. Fear still follows me everywhere like a shadow till I am willing to give it a name.
Maybe evidence that any given spiritual practice is working can’t be found in perfection but in vulnerability. Our tender hearts open as best as they can to experience. We reach out for support, reach in for a deep anchor of trust that will tether our sailing gypsy hearts to this moment.
It isn’t something you hold in your hand
a polished stone you skip across
the surface of Lake Doubt
to reach the other side
Trust is an open door
an invisible threshold you cross
without a groom to carry you
without a spare key
It’s holding your heart in stillness
as it fibrillates wildly with fear
until it syncs to the sound
of your breath and remembers
I am exactly where I need to be
I am safe in this understanding
(Note: The poem above isn’t the one I scribbled in my journal, but one that emerged from the stillness of falling asleep and waking up the next morning in the harbor of my bed:)