found and lost
like salt in air –
you are dissolved
As I write and let the picture settle into my awareness, feelings of connection and dissolution are very present. This stage is usually described as feeling deeply entwined with the Ox. We are accepting of our life as it unfolds, not passively but in an engaged way. We are content yet energized to meet our practice where it is, as it is. This is also the edge where we move into the everyday of practice and that has its own challenges.
The danger in this stage is the moment when relating becomes ordinary. The charge is defused and the energy diffuse; I run the risk of feeling bored with myself and everything around me. This is the ragged edge of attachment for me because all the old stories about abandonment creep in. Reaching into the other stages, I can see that the edge of anxiety begins with taming the Ox, creating a connection based in trust. After the high of the struggle to catch the Ox, it’s easy to relax, believing that the work is done, the ego vanquished. On the journey home, I become lulled into a sense of security and maybe even relief that the struggle is over. Now, the connection, deepened by the journey home, has dispersed into my life. But dissolution into a deeper intimacy can feel paradoxically like a loss if I’m not constant in my practice. The form of the Ox – whatever that may be – is gone and new perception is necessary.
This is where training has to kick in. It’s all still here: the passion, the dance, the interconnections. It is there in a cup of tea, in a touch, a glance, a hand held out to soothe, a flash of reaction, a silence. Over time, I’ve learned not to panic when friendships go underground or when work, writing, or art seem a drudge. Some days, the ordinary can feel like a long winter! When I worked with parents riding their Ox through raising teenagers, I used the metaphor of tulips which have to spend some time deep in the frozen ground before coming to bloom. In those winters, we need to have faith in our training as tulip gardeners, faith that we have prepared the ground well, provided the right nourishment, and allowed for sufficient space for growth to happen. This is faith in the enduring part of relationships, the part beyond the physical presence, the part that is woven into each breath. In my practice, it shows up as a momentary vision of the whole fabric as my being, an inclusiveness of the all knots and tangles in the weave without judgement. All are Ox in its boundless nature.
As hard as it is to let go of the tangibles that define my relationships, this is the turning point of my journey. It rests on trusting that essence is woven indelibly into the invisible whole.
Thank you for practicing,
*A deep bow to May Sarton whose poem, reproduced below, has influenced and informed my practice for decades.
In Time Like Air
Consider the mysterious salt:
In water it must disappear.
It has no self. It knows no fault.
Not even sight may apprehend it.
No one may gather it or spend it.
It is dissolved and everywhere.
But, out of water into air,
It must resolve into a presence,
Precise and tangible and here.
Faultlessly pure, faultlessly white,
It crystallizes in our sight
And has defined itself to essence.
What element dissolves the soul
So it may be both found and lost,
In what suspended as a whole?
What is the element so blest
That there identity can rest
As salt in the clear water cast?
Love, in its early transformation,
And only love, may so design it
That the self flows in pure sensation,
Is all dissolved, and found at last
Without a future or a past,
And a whole life suspended in it.
The faultless crystal of detachment
Comes after, cannot be created
Without the first intense attachment.
Even the saints achieve this slowly;
For us, more human and less holy,
In time like air is essence stated.
May Sarton Collected Poems 1992