Intense Serenity

Planet Earth is in full-scale revolt. A deadly earthquake in Morocco. A category 5 hurricane roaring through the Atlantic toward the North American coastline. A pair (at least) of smaller earthquakes off the coast of Jalisco in Mexico. Temperatures raging near or past the century mark around the globe. Wildfires devastating enormous swaths of forests and fields around the world. Floods and mudslides drowning and burying towns and villages here, there, and yon. And then there is the purely human element: politics, greed, and unchecked hunger for power, the consequences thereof be damned. All of existence leaves me somewhat disappointed this morning.


Until this morning, I had not heard of RoseAnn V. Shawiak, nor of the poem she wrote, Intense Serenity. The two-word phrase came to mind as I contemplated what I frequently seek when I am alone, especially during the wee hours inching toward dawn. Before deciding to proclaim the phrase was mine, I searched for it online. Shawiak’s poem was not the only occurrence of the phrase. The words were used in a song title. They were used to describe a filmmaker. Artwork attached to a canvas was so named. And a natural healing business in St. George, Utah goes by that name. Regardless of its commonality with so many disparate applications, I still maintain the phrase as uniquely mine. No one else feels exactly as I feel; no other words describe the state of mind I seek to enter. Others’ uses of the words are perfectly fine; but they do not correlate with the unparalleled, perfect merger between emotion and intellect, that nearly unattainable state of supreme understanding of a single moment that comes and goes at precisely the same instant. I seek that understanding, when I am alone in the pre-dawn darkness. I attempt to capture what it means to feel and fully absorb the explosive stillness that surrounds that incredibly fleeting moment when tranquility overwhelms and encompasses…and tames…ferocity. That flash of time during which a black hole and a supernova are one and the same. It is and will always be an unsuccessful pursuit. I know that. Yet unless I continue to try to catch it and experience it, I cannot know with certainty whether it exists. I confuse myself, though, because I cannot decide whether it is a moment I am after or it is the experience within that moment. Or, perhaps, both. The phrase, by the way, is not mine in the generic sense; it is mine only in the sense of my understanding of what it may mean.


Wretched dream! I somehow stepped out of a small room and onto the top open shelf of the kitchen of long-ago acquaintances. I carefully avoided knocking dishes and dishtowels off the shelf and attempted to step down onto the white tile countertop, but the counter kept moving just enough that I could not keep my balance without grabbing at cups and saucers next to me. My acquaintances seemed to ignore my plight, focusing their attention instead on some unknown party’s interference with scheduling a course. That is all there was to the dream, but it seemed to go on and on and on, as if it were replaying; but it was not replaying, it was simply extending itself over a very long time. Achh!


Today is Saturday. The only thing on my calendar is “thaw something for dinner.” So much excitement. Intense serenity does not compare to that.


Today is my late brother’s birthday. He would have turned 75 today. Soon, we will spread his ashes where he wanted them to be spread.


Nine years ago today, I posted the following as part of my “thoughts for the day” ritual:

Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water. The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken.  Although its light is wide and great, the moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide.  The whole moon and the entire sky are reflected in one dewdrop on the grass.

Dōgen Zenji,
13th Century Japanese Zen Buddhist Teacher/Master

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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