A Guided Meditation With A Little Help From A Wallace Stevens Poem (“The Plain Sense Of Things”)

If the poet generates a soundtrack to an environment, then the meditator, as poet, generates a meta-soundtrack that goes something like this: In your head, bring the inertial, reactive soundtracks down. Do not desire or avert them, but just let them be. Notice how your habitual and evolved inner soundtracks mash-up with the evolved soundtracks around you (social and natural). In other words, notice that you’re an evolved animal in a very particular existential situation. What’s triggering your evolved brain modules (your inner iTunes playlists, as it were) and what’s actually playing in the present moment from one of those playlists? Again, don’t do anything about what you’re currently experiencing (“It’s never too late to do nothing at all”). Just observe. Do not become spell-cast. Be calm and ironic. Play dead.

Now that you’re unattached from your habitual, reactive soundtracks, attend with dispassion to something quite particular, either within or without. Notice its sui generis (one-of-a-kind) qualities, what conditions its existence, and how it consists of parts and processes that are ultimately impersonal, interconnected, and impermanent. Attend to the thing’s implicit or explicit homeostatic and allostatic rhythms and cycles: how does it maintains its inner logic and balance and respond to outside forces? What makes it a distinct, integral thing? Also notice its age. At what stage in the rising-ripening-and-dying process does it seem to be in? Bring yourself to an ever deeper stillness and silence in relation to that thing, as if you are observing a leaf that has dislodged from a tree beside a pond. (You are the tree. You are alongside a still pond.) Now read this poem:

Wallace Stevens

THE PLAIN SENSE OF THINGS

 

After the leaves have fallen, we return 

To a plain sense of things. It is as if 

We had come to an end of the imagination, 

Inanimate in an inert savoir.

 

It is difficult even to choose the adjective 

For this blank cold, this sadness without cause. 

The great structure has become a minor house. 

No turban walks across the lessened floors.

 

The greenhouse never so badly needed paint. 

The chimney is fifty years old and slants to one side. 

A fantastic effort has failed, a repetition 

In a repetitiousness of men and flies.

 

Yet the absence of the imagination had

Itself to be imagined. The great pond,

The plain sense of it, without reflections, leaves,

Mud, water like dirty glass, expressing silence

 

Of a sort, silence of a rat come out to see,

The great pond and its waste of the lilies, all this

Had to be imagined as an inevitable knowledge,

Required, as a necessity requires.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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2 Responses to A Guided Meditation With A Little Help From A Wallace Stevens Poem (“The Plain Sense Of Things”)

  1. Vincent says:

    How great the world would be if mankind spent some time looking at life through “the poet’s eye.”

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