This last Tuesday, we practiced “going in and out of transformation,” as suggested to us by the 6th line in Rilke’s Sonnet to Orpheus II, 29:
Still friend of the many distances, feel
how your breath increases space still more.
In the dark bell tower’s timber,
let yourself chime. What consumes you 4
grows strong on this kind of food.
Go in and out of transformation.
What is your most agonizing experience?
If drinking is bitter to you, become the wine. 8
Be, in this night of excessiveness,
the magic power at the crossroads of your senses:
their rare encounter’s sense. 11
And if what is earthly forgot you,
to the still earth say: I flow.
To the rushing water speak: I am. 14
We listened to a bell, to outdoor sounds, and to remembered sounds. We practiced toggling between being within ourselves and being the bell sounding. Sound is a good training ground for transformation, because sound bypasses verbal understanding and yet has a conceptual contour, a shape.
We also discussed “what consumes you,” (line 4), or that which is nourished by transformation. For Rilke, something is always growing within us or through us, something much vaster than our normal sense of self. Remember “the nameless” from his poem, “Progress,” or “what struggles with us” in his poem, “The Seer.”
We can variously identify this vaster thing as our true self, or that God on whose growth, for Rilke, we are always working, or the spiritual worlds altogether, which feed on our experience here in a kind of reverse Eucharist. The godhead develops by eating us (being nourished by our experience) rather than the other way around.
There is that tantalizing hint when Hotspur (also known as Percy) dies in Shakepeare’s Henry IV, Pt 1 V,iv . At the very moment of dying, after a beautiful speech, he says to himself, “No Percy, thou art dust/ And food for—" He leaves the last word off and dies. In the play, his friend Prince Henry completes the sentence for him with “—for worms,” but maybe Hotspur meant something else. Maybe he sensed that we are dust, on the one hand, but on the other hand we are food for….
Next week, we dare to invoke our most suffering, or our most agonizing (“leidenste”) experience (lines 7,8). Our purpose is not to suffer more, but to become the experience in its totality – like becoming the wine if you find drinking bitter. This might mean becoming the other players in the agonizing experience, or becoming the physical ground that bore the event, or identifying with the observing consciousness(es) that also grounded the event, or identifying with the total sequence of it, including all the actors involved. To do so requires that we release our attachment to the story of suffering as we have held the story so far. It is a kind of test case to see how supple and strong in non-duality we have become through our many works of devoted attention.
all blessings to all,