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How Did I Get Here?

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    • #1212
      Michael Gray

        Sinking Rowboat – Google Images

        Waves are lapping against the gunnels of a rowboat that isn’t familiar to me. I see that I’m a good mile out from the coast and that the waves have suddenly become higher, as if I must have moved out past the protection of a projection in the shoreline. Then, with something like a shock, I notice that there must be a leak in the bottom of this rowboat, because the level of water sloshing in the bottom has risen above the slatted boards under my feet. It is not quite like the familiar feeling of shock, when something unexpected interrupts what has been unfolding moments before. It is more as if I am gradually coming into awareness, piece by piece, of myself sitting in a boat floating in the Mediterranean Sea, a mile off the southern coast of Italy.

        Perhaps I am just tired from rowing and taking a break in the comfort of a day dream. Then a bailing-can tilts to one side, floats across the sloshing water, and bangs against my drenched shoes. I know I should start bailing. But somehow this thought doesn’t rouse me to action.

        I am trying to hold onto something that is calling to me across the corridors of my mind. As I hearken to this voice, I sense it is trying to deliver an important message. But its message is getting lost as the rowboat continues to fill up with water. Then a large wave strikes the gunnel, slaps my arm and face with its cold fingers, and I gasp in panic–shocked out of my dreamy state.

        In its wake, images that place me in this boat crowd in. I remember the café latte I drank that morning in my Pension lodging, along with a sweet bun. I remember sitting in the boat an hour ago, with the racked oars on each side of me, as the fisherman who rented it to me is pointing to the bailing can and using his other hand to indicate something rising slowly; when I don’t understand, he points to the slats at the bottom of the boat and uses some Italian word I don’t recognize, which I now think may have been a word for the slats that are now under water.

        In the back of my mind, even while these memories crowd in, the voice is asking me to hold onto something and protect it from the sensations that are seeping through my wet shirt and wet shoes. But it may be a losing battle. As if discovering jigsaw puzzle pieces that have fallen onto the floor, I now remember that I am on my third day of a three-week vacation from my programming job at Bell Canada in Montreal. And I remember someone fluent in Italian, whom I met at the Pension lodging, introducing me to a fisherman who was hanging up his nets.

        As another large wave hits the gunnel and sloshes over me (adding almost a foot to the depth of the water in the bottom of the boat), I make a decision. It’s a decision that flies in the face of the world gathering around me and the choking that assails me after the next wave hits. I let myself believe that I am not really here in this body, in a leaky boat off the coast of an Italian village. In the wake of this decision, this deliberate ignoring, I realize that I once visited an Italian town like this one, on the Mediterranean coast, half a century ago.

        As the next wave completely submerges the leaky boat—like when the incoming tide reaches a sand castle on a sandy beach—I am somewhere else.

        I hear my mother’s voice.

        Do you have plans for today, dear?”

        “Didn’t you die a long time ago, Mom?”

        “If you say so, dear. Do you still like milk in your tea? I just made a fresh pot.”

        “Where am I, Mom? I feel really strange.”

        “It can feel like that at first. What I find helps is to notice what is right in front of me. There is so much to see and hear. So much to feel and explore. Do you see that bird on the branch of the elm tree through the kitchen window?

        “Oh, there’s your father in the garden, waving to us. Let’s go outside. It’s such a beautiful day.”

      • #1219
        David Filippone

          Here is the introduction to Michael Gray’s post from the CCI Facebook page…

          Author Michael Gray has penned a new Blog that seems to fit with an ending year, and tracking back in time asking, “How Did I Get Here?’ What a sobering question! How beautifully written is his Blog… it seems like a dream to the character speaking… life… time slipped away right under my nose. And as it goes, in a self-induced spell, I can’t help but focus on the past, because the present seems always just too frightening to face… Could it be a story of our life? Rinpoche writes:

          “The quality of our knowledge proves itself in the quality of our lives. A knowledge constructed of concepts that identify and manipulate pre-established structures yields a world that is crowded, rigid, compressed, and impenetrable. Human suffering is built up in layers of increasing solidity, each layer a further misreading of a fluid dynamic… The limited knowledge that confines us in this way is shaped and confined in turn by limited space and time… If we could somehow open space or time, knowledge would become available in a new way. We could move out of the narrow angle in which we have been wedged to explore [more] space… We could reach out to know knowledge directly… No longer confined like an animal in its pen, we could start to live a richer way of being. “

          “By devoting ourselves fully to knowledge, we may be able to direct the course of change, so that time and space do open and insight flows freely, supporting a deep sense of well-being. Yet unless the underlying structure imposed on time and space and knowledge is transformed, such change may be temporary: as though the angle that confines us widened for a time before narrowing once more—settling into a new but just as confining ‘order.’ We are used to knowing within a system or ‘order.’ Most often we imagine that the ‘order’ has always been in operation, not recognizing that this ‘always already there’ is an aspect of the knowing that the ‘order’ permits and embodies.”
          …’Knowledge of Time and Space,’ by Tarthang Tulku, p.287-89 [Emphasis added]

          Continue reading the post above…

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