By Jessica Rigney
A young child drowns and a family is left shattered and grasping.
There is something to offer, we hope—those of us who watch from the outside; and we are outside. This thing that has happened, has not happened to us.
It has happened to this small family.
It is mentioned to me that the living sibling spends much of her time with books. She likes to write and is quite perceptive and sensitive. And can you? Will you? Think of something which can be given to her?
I am a dark one.
It is no secret among family and friends that I have struggled in this life with one toe dipped below the ground. Medical diagnoses dictate that one with a mood such as this be labeled. In the process of discovering one’s own purpose in life, it can be helpful to have a diagnosis, for it forces one to find and access tools to assist in the hours or days when one’s skin feels as if it has been turned inside out to expose every nerve ending.
Those of us who are dark, sensitive ones, who tend to see the significance of a slant of light, are often the musicians, poets and artists of our families.
The susceptibility of falling into bouts of anxiety and depression because of these subtle and finer feelings is what brought me to meditation decades ago when my own child was a toddler. I feared I would not stay on this earth to raise him if I did not find a way to ease my sufferings of sensitivity. Early on, my practice consisted mainly of sitting and weeping—I did that for years.
Time passed, as it does when one weeps, and then I fell silent.
The silence deepened. I could feel the depth of my breath slowing. My son was 10 years old by then. I entered formal meditation practice at a Buddhist temple near our home. I could sit for an hour, feeling as though only 10 minutes had passed.
Sometimes I still wept. Though the sensations around my heart had shifted.
What does this have to do with helping the beautiful and bereft daughter of another family?
I had done all the hardcore meditations one could ask of oneself. I sat for hours not moving. I let my legs fall asleep. I followed a Swami in India and sat overnight, longing with exceptional desire for a soft pillow to lay my head upon, and walked out into the hot light of a South India morning feeling as if I’d burst into flames. I’d listened to all the masters, read all the books.
Then 15 years after I first began sitting in meditation, I gave it up.
When I was a young girl, about the same age as the living daughter of this tragedy, I swam in the freshwater lake which spread itself just beyond the backdoor of our home. Beyond the first few yards of shore, the water deepened and darkened. My darkness allowed me to imagine all the creatures which might inhabit its depths as I swam laps from one shoreline to another. I reached downwards, stroke upon stroke, to the cool springs so I could feel my arms encircled with the cold, maybe to touch the slick back of a catfish.
Boys who lived on the lake would come round to swim at our beach as children often congregate where rafts are most numerous. We had the benefit of a load of sand brought some summers to cover the muddy bottom of the lake near our shoreline. There were water games we all played until we were bored, until the older boys came up with new ones.
Dunk was a risky and popular leader one summer and went like this:
At any given moment, a larger swimmer could bring their hand down on top of the head of a smaller swimmer to hold him or her under the water for any length of time. That was pretty much it. As one of the smaller swimmers, I learned soon after being the victim of Dunk several times, how the length of the dunk was determined by the vigor of one’s struggle.
If I gave in. If I stilled my body and let go of any hope of survival, I would be released.
Thus began my introduction to meditation; I didn’t know it then. However, years later when I got beyond my weeping and found silence, I was brought back to those dim and silent moments under water. I could survive by releasing tension in my body, softening my heart, and letting go.
We who are dark in nature don’t ask for it.
It comes of its own accord and brings with it a struggle we learn to let go of, or not. Meditation can often be an arduous trying of sorts. It becomes a thing we do and not a thing we do not do.
Meditation should be easy. At the heart of it, we are simply remembering who we are and being comfortable with that, a breath at a time.
I gave up sitting.
I no longer needed to sit, to know. I could remember who I was in every moment. Without expectations, without change.
I imagine there will be things shared with this young girl which may help or hinder her in the coming days and years. A loss such as this in a life just begun is something which will frame her view upon the world for a lifetime.
That she may be a dark one, a sensitive one, only means she may feel more profoundly the sensations of pain. It could be that she will give voice to that pain in ways others may view as dangerous or disturbing.
I will however, leave with her a stack of books by others who have seen deeply into their own souls and lived. I will give her pens and journals of empty pages for her to pull from heart to paper, her own struggle. So that she may weep and know the hand of pain is hard upon her these days.
But that it is with a stillness and a silence that she will come to know again, who she is in this changing world.
Jessica Rigney currently makes her home along Colorado’s front range with her husband and son. Find her poetry online and in print wherever writing is cherished. Read her diminutive works of micropoetry on Twitter. Explore her images and prose at Jessica Rigney Without Map.
Photo: Surian Soosay/flickr
Editor: Alicia Wozniak