Seasick every day
Each month, I write a newsletter offering an updated event listing and some words from my own journey. The following words are from June.
Chances are, if you’ve been at an event or in conversation with me lately, you’ve heard me quote Leonard Cohen’s poem, “Good Advice for Someone Like Me.”
“if you don’t become the ocean, you’ll be seasick every day.”
These words have been ringing loudly in my ears since the moment I discovered them. As with most great quotes, they have an immediate impact, but through repetition I find myself lifting the lid on a deep well of mystery.
A couple of weeks ago, I made my way to Florida to offer a sound healing experience and singing workshops. In what would feel like gift to most Midwesterners, this location offered the ability to walk by the ocean on the daily. It is not a quiet call I feel whenever I’m in close proximity to mountain or sea and this trip was no exception. On one delightfully mild afternoon, with Cohen’s words echoing in my ear, I found myself standing at the water’s edge with waves brushing across my feet contemplating what it would mean to step fully into his metaphor?
How do I become the ocean?
I certainly know how to be “seasick every day.” In fact, I’m feeling it right now as I struggle to find the right words to write to you in this e-mail. In the Buddhist teaching, to which Cohen subscribed, this seasickness is called Dukkha, or “suffering.” To me, the word suffering can seem more dramatic than the dull edge of “unsatisfactoriness” I’m often willing to acknowledge, but I do know that suffering is a fundamental and uncomfortable truth of our lives. Just as the ocean’s tides flow, we suffer. But if this is true, why would becoming the ocean alleviate seasickness? Isn’t it the cause?
In a recent email exchange, a friend shared with me a sound experience they had at a local yoga studio.
“The room was small and the sound was so loud that it felt like too much. Then when I stopped resisting it, that's when it took me somewhere. The sound took me to a place where my thoughts were quiet and it felt like "I" blended with the vibration.”
When I read these words, I thought to myself “Aha! The ocean as sound!” This is a story with which I am increasingly familiar, through personal experience and as conveyed by many others. It seems to always includes resistance, awareness and then mysterious release into the unknown… often described as oneness. It is generally described as journey and never about destination. It is the joy and pain of being lost at sea.
While I imagine Cohen’s call to “become the ocean” to be my life’s practice, I am aware that right now, by this very acknowledgement I am in its wave. Seasickness may be inevitable, but the crest of each wave is a unique opportunity for awareness and release. Besides, Cohen doesn’t say we won’t be seasick, he just offers that we don’t have to “be seasick every day.” What a relief.
With this in mind, I’ve got some amazing events coming up that I offer as invitation to practice with me in the ocean of sound.