The Poetry and Prose of John Omniadeo

The Poetry and Prose of John Omniadeo

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Display of Experience

Woke up stiff and sore and ate the breakfast burrito I bought on the way home yesterday. Packed another burrito into my backpack for dinner, showered, glanced at the aspirin and wondered, “would that be cheating?” Not if I confess it to you dear readers, so the truth is out: anti inflammatories are used on JO prostration retreats as of today.

Yesterday I took a rug and my ukulele downtown. The rug seemed like a good idea and the ukulele was in case I felt like busking in the subway. But the rug became a drag to carry around when I was evicted and repositioned by the authorities or had to go the bathroom, and I was too tired to get the proper busking mojo going, so today I decided just to pack a yoga mat and make it simpler. Also packed my Tarot box and thought I might offer some readings by donation. I decided to walk the 3.5 miles downtown doing Tara practice to loosen my joints.

I walked and chanted in the predawn cool air and everything, even the vomit on Mission Street seemed magical. (Counted three separate incidents—all looked just like those fake rubber vomit gags you buy in joke shops). Suddenly I realized I had forgot the yoga mat. Uh oh. Prostrating in wet grass or pigeon shit was not going to be pleasant, but I didn't want to walk back either. “Guess the Lord—or 'causes and conditions' or whatever the hell it is that provides—will have to provide,” I thought and kept chanting but started looking for cardboard. The same helps them that help themselves.

I was losing faith when I arrived at UN Plaza. Lo and behold there they were! A pile of Office Depot folding table boxes exactly the right size. I was worried that I would have to read “office depot” all day long as I went down into the horizontal position, but I folded them the other way and they were as empty of content as experience is empty of substance. Just restful brown cardboard. I felt happy and free. Little did I know I would spend the rest of the day worrying about losing this prized possession. Cardboard is worth money on the recycling market and there were far more scavengers interested in my cardboard than there were thieves interested in my old rug. “You sure you want that dude?” they would ask, looking at it like it was a dollar bill.

It's a good thing we are not looking for “progress” on retreats, because I am a lot slower and more distracted today; slowed by sore muscles and distracted by a quivery vulnerable feeling in my chest. When I pray “Please look upon me with eyes of compassion” while in the vertical position with my chest opened up and my attention on the in-breath, I feel near tears. I would like to say it is because I am surrounded and moved by suffering humanity and urban animal life. (Counted three men without any legs and two pigeons with just one within an hour or two, and that's not even getting into the countless eruptions of anger around me, some by people spiting angry gibberish to themselves, others by people throwing angry threats to one another.)

But actually I think it is because I am feeling ashamed of the whole thing. Who am I to do this?

“I” is in there somewhere anyway. The fact that there is soreness and less strength today is not that big a deal in itself, but I don't have the same steady rhythm of prostrations to distract me from myself. And self is a spinning wheel of pride and shame. Heaven and hell. Today it's shame. Hell.

Oh well. Keep on bowing, John. Open your chest and let the “awakened one” see the shame. Breathe it out and let it go into the brown cardboard. Get up slowly (fewer prostrations per hour today for sure!) and do it again. When the tears do come, notice that they actually feel pretty good. Or rather the welling feelings that radiate from the heart through the throat and eyes feel good. Admit it. And no one will notice here among the almost unnoticed.

Almost unnoticed.

Here are my two favorite encounters of the day:

I was in the vertical position with my palms together in the universal mudra of prayer, when a movie star-handsome though somewhat mask-like chiseled face leaned into me like we were buddies sharing beers at a bar. He was wearing a black leather jacket, clean and well dressed and pulling a stack of luggage on a handcart. He motioned with hs thumb to the next block of Market and with buddy-buddy intimacy smiled and said:

“You tellin me that's the only titty club left on Market? Back in the eighties there were like five of them.”

I smiled and said that now there were so many full service massage parlors, maybe no one felt the need for the clubs anymore. He replied, “But you could get it there in the eighties. I's in there with a buddy and he said, 'don't look behind you,' but I did of course, and she was fucking this dude right there!”

I shook my head and grimaced in the classic male, “is that so?” move, and he shook his head, gave me a thumbs up and moved on with a “later, man...”

I recalled knowing a dancer or two at those old clubs, through my beautiful and relentlessly friendly ex-wife no less, who knew and knows everybody in town it seems. I returned to my prostration. “Till all are free...” I noticed my buddy pulling his luggage up and down the same couple of blocks for the next hour or so, as if maybe the clubs would reappear if he just kept at it.

Lunch today was on Rhoda, a lovely sweet filipina who asked me, “Would you like a sandwich?” Sure. (I am no liar in such matters.) She gave me a McDonald's burger and a Dr. Pepper and asked me whether I knew God loved me. As a matter of fact I did. I was in no mood for theological disputes with anyone so kind, and, anyway, I was feeling loved somehow. I said, ”Yes that is what I am doing here, bowing and feeling loved.”

She let the lack of a deity in that sentence go right past her. She was obviously pleased that I did not want to argue. “God loves everybody and He is in control,” she said. Here I was more tempted by theological dispute. I wanted to ask her why, if God was already in control here, did Jesus pray that God's will be done “on Earth as it is in Heaven”? But I agreed, smiled back at her lovely eyes and drank my Dr. Pepper instead. They were divine and the sweetness of both revived me.

She told me not to despair, and as a matter of fact I was feeling better as she went off to give a sandwich to an angry looking tattooed dyke who looked like she might be coming off a bender. Rhoda seemed bewildered but intrigued when I started bowing again.

Gotta love the display of experience.

Love to all,

John O.

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