Persistent Existence

Last week, or last night, or the one before, the
mind-numbing silence raging above sirens, a lyric, or
spouse’s snore, a greater noise than a stream of words.
The life of a poet stretched out to the last stanza.
No longer.
News in the mourning. Not an everyday death. Not
a delinquent child, or deviant mind, trying to fit in, nor
the useless corpse bleeding out in a suburban mall
parking lot. Snuffed-out lives, intended target or otherwise,
the guns, the knives.
Collateral damage we hear on the radio each morning,
as we drive to work, as we try to survive another day.
Street crime, sign of the times, taken for granted.
Death, each day, over and over, and over.
Wilful violence.
This death was different, even expected. A musician
who sang for everyman, as he was himself. A father,
a friend, one we would come to know because his art
allowed more. It went further. He found a purpose
in his calling.
Who will now speak for a generation stuck between
nostalgia and this undefined future. Who will soothe
heaving hearts with the melody required. Illusions
of someday. Each day. Whether we know it
or not.
Cries of anguish above streetlights, beyond sidewalks
littered with deceit and dog shit, or forests brimming
with autumn’s glow. The final hours yet to show as moon
glow, stardust and daily drama, mix with the harsh realities
of hatred.
Undisputed ignorance clashes with brittle indifference.
You can say, and I will believe, this world of violence
has become an extreme. Yet it does not take away from
the efforts to sustain; to fill our lungs with the promise
of another day.
We tolerate as we try, complicit in persistent existence,
to continue moving forward. We all brave on, each
waking hour, defying the only true certainty known
in this life. Death awaits. May we be blessed to
greet it kindly.
©2017 j.g. lewis

Mind The Time

Meditation, the art or the practice, is simply not working for me.

I have tried; damn I’ve tried, but as I sit, as I try to silence the mind and find this eternally elusive stillness, I often end up thinking my time spent meditating is unproductive if not counterproductive.

I try.

I turn on the salt lamp, light a candle (sometimes), burn incense (more than a lot) turn off the music or the radio, and try to tune out all that surrounds me. Sometimes on the floor, other times in a chair or bench, I sit with my thoughts – the profound, the profane, the questionable and the mundane – and try to channel my mind towards a place of purpose.

Of course I have a mantra, a gift I received when I was about 17, and of course I use it. And for a while it provides a focus.

For a while.

Then as I’m sitting as calm as I can be, another thought; a greater thought or a deeper thought (a random thought) pulls me away from my intended silence and I’m no longer sitting passively. Perhaps the interruption is a reflection of the day, or a scene from last winter, or a passage I read ages ago, a vision of Joni Mitchell, or any number of people or memories that travel through my headspace, and my intention has suddenly been hijacked.

My meditation turns into 15 minutes (more or less) of sitting and staring at a smouldering candle. I get down on myself, for this is time I could be using any number of ways. I’ve got stuff to do, things to write, or commitments to tend to.

There’s the regular stuff to take care of, finding time in between work and words, and sleep. Of course I’ve got to find time for exercise, and to eat, and to tend to the people you mutually rely upon to keep life on its fulcrum.

So my meditation becomes more like incidental contemplation. This frustrates me, more than anything, because I’m not sure I want my attempts to meditate to turn into one of those things I sort of leave behind (I’m a Gemini; we do that). I’ve got a beautiful set of fairly-new Tarot cards I once saw a purpose in, and I studied the cards with great intensity (as Geminis tend to do) and they now look nice on the book shelf. They sit idle.

That’s not like me.

I’m impatient. I’m not one to sit still, I never have been. Even in yoga, I have trouble with the extended savasanah in the middle of the class, the break where you are supposed to let thoughts flow through you like your breath. I can’t. There’s always something else on my mind, even just the next posture.

I had tried transcendental meditation years and years ago. I remember very little, except my mantra.

I do think, regularly. I contemplate, foster ideas, and compose thoughts that grow into poetry, or essays, or excuses.

I have even developed a practice at the end of the day where I will lay in bed, breath consciously, and take internal inventory, slowly allowing the thoughts to slow to a trickle. Some people may simply call this falling asleep, but I believe it is more purposeful. I believe I’m actually emptying my mind so I may find stillness, and – insomnia be damned – perhaps enter the most meditative state of the day. That’s my rationalization, and I’m sticking to it.

But meditation, the sitting-cross-legged-and-sitting-totally-still-type-of -meditation, is not working for me. Maybe I’m not cut out for this kind of inner peace. Maybe just sitting with volume of poems is enough for me to calm my mind for a stanza or too. Maybe letting my head follow the flow of Mahler, or Kernis, or any one of a number of Yo Yo Ma compact discs is enough to relax me.

Maybe this weakness, this inability to settle right down, is not a weakness, but a strength. I just need to fully figure out how to use it.

I admire those who can, daily, for more than 15 minutes at a time, sit and sort out details, or accept themselves, or think of whatever they do that provides the balance and the bounty they require. I’m not so sure that is me.

I’m feeling it’s not as important to meditate as it is to find a practice that gets you thinking about something. Some people may find a contemplative walk is enough, others may get caught up in the rhythm of long distance running, or the intense concentration of power lifting, or archery.

Give your mind the time to do what it needs to do. Do what you need to do.

Find your peace wherever you are, however you can, and more importantly, whenever you are able to.

©2017 j.g. lewis



Maybe you need to get away to feel more like yourself.
Perhaps you need to look at something new, with the same eyes,
to appreciate what you see day to day. Everything becomes brighter
when you begin paying attention to the certainty of the ordinary.

Maybe time away from the routine you feel closing in
allows you to rethink priorities or plans you may have had.
After some thought some things aren’t half bad, but you need
more perspective. Maybe every day becomes another way.

Maybe it’s all too easy to get caught up in the daily news of tragedy
after catastrophe, disasters and disappointment, often worlds away.
Maybe you are better able to deal with the results or ramifications if,
for a day or two, you turn off the noise and switch off the news.

Maybe you cannot ignore the world events, but you can tune out
for a while. Can’t you? Maye your humanity with come back to you,
even if you are away only for a day or two. Perhaps to understand
what you hold inside, you might need to get out and look around.

Maybe sleeping in an unfamiliar bed allows you to see how
comfortable you can be. The sleep might become deeper, even a
time zone change can rearrange nocturnal habits that have you
sleeping less than you have been, and not as much as you should.

Maybe different thoughts can be found just by not thinking about the
same things, or thinking in a different way. Maybe you need to think
from far away to realize what you know, or want to do. It looks different
the second time around by not allowing the then to dictate the now.

Maybe the once-familiar food tastes different, or better. Maybe it is
as it always was, but you allow yourself time to savour the flavours.
You might chew on things a little longer, just to see if it is all
you once believed. How are you now sustained by your beliefs?

Maybe you need to get to a place that once was home, or find a place
where you feel less alone, or not as isolated from that which you knew.
Perhaps it doesn’t have to be for that long. Even just a day or two, then
maybe when you get back you are better able to deal with all that is you.