Dharma Poem: Teaching a Cephalopod to Sit

I glance to the left.

His eye swivels in its socket.
His long arm along mine tugs softly
as if to say: Go on.
Then the suckers release,
the ligula stroking my hand,
the arm returning to the others
in a lazy eight 
above the cushion.  

His eye swivels forward, 
his body a mottled on-and-off pink,
his beak under his mantle.  

I’m not sure I should be doing this.
What do we know of other minds,
human or otherwise?

I close my eyes.  

                            Breathe in, I say.
                            Let your breath fill your body.
                            Slowly let the breath fill every cell.

Yes, there’s an octopus in my office,
come from the ocean
where movements may be fluid
but it’s eat or be eaten.  

I conjure 8 arms
so full of neurons that
they think on their own,
wickedly smart,
sometimes more than the brain
that wraps round the throat. 
3 hearts
and a short 3-year life under water.

I return to my body.  

                            
                            
                            Breathing in, I say, 
                            I grow aware of my feelings.
                            Breathing out,
                            I know what I feel.

Do I?  
I’m wary.  I’m curious.
I’m flattered.
Of all those who honor dharma
why has he chosen me?

I sense laughter.  

                            Breathing in, I say,
                            I calm my feelings.

Meditating with others, I remind myself,
Makes me light-hearted.  

I return to my breath.  

                            Breathing in, I say,
                            I become aware of my thoughts.

What keeps an invertebrate
on the cushion?
What’s on his mind?–
his alien mind that–
so I’m told–seeks 
prey not companions.  

I shift position.  

                            Breathing in, I say, 
                            I gladden my thoughts.  
                            Breathing out, I stay focused.  

I can choose, I remind myself,
my object of concentration.
I can discard distraction.  

My eyeballs relax in their sockets.  

From my knees on the floor
through my vertebra 
joy bubbles and–
buoyant–
I find myself in the sea.  

                            Breathing in, I say, I am peaceful.  
                        
The water feels cool.              

                            We are impermanent, I say.

He is.  I am.
This place.  The moment.

                            Desire dissolves, I say,  
opening 10 fingers.  

                            I let go, I say,
yielding to silence.      
    
Oxygen entering, I breathe in.  
Having nothing to hold on to, I breathe out.  
In takes time.
Out forever.   

I smile.  

Mollusk, human,
our breath 
guiding us home.
 
© January 25-27, 2018 | Carolyn White