Being with the Pause

The truth isn’t something static; it is a living, breathing forest in and of itself. Sometimes, we don’t want to hear the truth because the truth is always inconvenient in some ways. But many of us find that living closer to truth or dharma is just a plain relief. It’s a plain relief not holding ourselves back, not having to pretend, not having to force things, and not having to make anything happen, just being able to relax. 

When we relax, there’s another relief, and that relief is the discovery of what we always hoped was true: The foundation of all things is joy. This is joy. This is love. We don’t know it until we have had the visceral experience. 

For me, maybe not for everybody, I needed a path. I needed to walk something in order to clear what was blocking the visceral experience from presenting. 

There is the discovery of a sense in intimacy with another human being at the most subtle level where it’s almost like they’re the inhale, and I’m the exhale. Then there’s no breath and we’re just inside of something. That was the sensation I was looking for inside of all romance before. I don’t know if this sensation can get us hotter or sexier, but it can get us that intimacy. 

We look for this sensation everywhere, with people, with our environment. I have a little squirrel city in my backyard. I look for this intimacy, this connection with my little squirrels; I look for it with people walking on my street, that sense of profound connection and belonging. I look for it with partners and having it with partners matters, but only because it is a facet where it wants to be expressed. We become so rich in every facet that partnership or romance doesn’t become the only medium through which we can express and connect to that place.

Many years ago, I was dating, or rather, circumambulating with this guy, and he was circumambulating me. 

He invited me to a business meeting, and we were talking about very important things. We were in the meeting for six or seven hours, and drank teapot after teapot after teapot, and finally, I said, “Okay, it’s time for me to go.” 

There had been magnetism between us in the meeting, and we were standing at the door. We hugged and then there was this pause. The pause was extraordinarily concentrated, rich, poignant. As if it had a gravity of its own, the pause pulled us in and pulled us in, and this kiss came, and then a few more kisses after that. 

Later somebody asked him, “Did you know? When did you know? When did you know that you would be kissing this woman?” 

He said, “I didn’t. I didn’t know those whole seven hours that we would be kissing. Until there was the caesura.” 

Caesura means pause. It’s the moment between musical notes that can be extended, or the moment between words and poetry that can be extended. 

What we find in that moment, what we call “the gap” in Eros, is that it is where the most concentrated life form exists in such a way that it defines the rest of our lives. 

I know so much of our writings might appear to be about how to slow down or speed up or about more intense lessons to us, but I don’t think any of those factors matter. 

What matters is a certain mastery of the gap, or that caesura, pause, or bardo. It’s this timeless time that we get to sink into, and when we’re in there, it’s almost aquatic and dilated, we get an opportunity to have a three-sixty view. All views have their own motion, but we have a way to perceive that isn’t moved by speed. This is one of the things we don’t talk about, or we become frozen by lack of movement. There’s a movement, a perfect time movement that keeps us in the flow, and then when we hit that gap, it’s poignant. 

I would say if we are going to be master strokers, really what we have to know is how to not stroke. That’s what true mastery is: that moment of knowing how not to stroke and then how to hold the stroke because we’re actually holding silence, holding stillness, holding lack of movement, holding an invisible movement, and listening at the most subtle level until we’re told to move again. 

In one of my first OMs with Ray, who was my primary trainer, I had an experience I had never had before. He built up a crescendo in my body, like in an opera. Waves were building and building. I was positive I was going to go over the edge, and was trying to hold back, while also trying to push for it. His mastery held me; he lifted me and I had this sensation that was like dangling in space, like in a spider web. 

In that moment, right after I had thought I couldn’t take any more, the entire OM circulated inside of my body, and I digested it all, just hanging there in space. 

His finger went back down and all of that height and that sort of broadness and dispersion and dissolution came back and it landed in my viscera. I was having this experience of that much space being brought down into the viscera on such a mechanical level, while not alone, meditating. I was being moved far out and then back and experienced a profound vulnerability and sense of opening being with somebody having that level of mastery. I hope I can bring that to the planet in the way I felt it. I’ve never really seen it honored that way.

The things that we honor so often are solitary experiences, but to have that sense of being unbearably, unimaginably out of control with such incredible care by another, as a person, as a woman, it retroactively heals everything that came before. 

Not to sound dramatic, but it’s like all the pain of my ancestors, the pain of being a woman, of not being met, not being noticed, not being heard, not being seen, the rhythms not being paid attention to, and always feeling somewhat discordant with reality because the rhythms in here are so different from the rhythms out there. Then to have somebody be able to tune into that rhythm in such a way that it couldn’t be faked, and then meeting me, and then that intimacy of being in that place with a human being. This way of losing control is something I hope to practice well in my life, and this experience is part of the reason.

In the beginning of practice, it’s insanely bumpy and crazy and frustrating, but we would not expect it. We would never know that the rest of our practice is sitting buffered by something kind of invisible. In yoga, it’s called sattvic. This love insulates around us. That’s the perfect and only container for joy, and I don’t mean joy, as in glee, I mean deep-seated joy. But this all has everything to do with how well we do the pause. 

I would say that my lama, Lama Glenn, in a specific domain, is a master of the pause. I think he learned this hiking up Everest. He’s never lost anyone, and everyone else has lost someone on Everest. I had this experience when I walked with him. I think he walks everywhere in the exact same way because I’ve walked with him on active streets in Seoul, Korea, and up a smaller mountain in Nepal. What I noticed is there’s a certain holding in his pacing. We may be even walking quickly, so that we are changing the actual pace, but what he does at the moment is so brilliant. 

The moment when I start to get anxious, right when I think I’m going to get tired, or think, I don’t know if I can do that…I’m going to be embarrassed because I’m going to start exhaling, panting, panting. They’re all going to see that I’m out of breath. Wherever we are, we pause. We sit, often we talk, and then I forget we are even on a walk. Then naturally, my body wants to walk again. Right then he picks up that moment, and we start walking. That alternating of energies, of relaxation and activity, makes each one richer, more poignant, more gratifying, as a result of the other occurring, but only because it happens at the right moment. 

That’s the piece we have to keep listening for. 

What is that moment? If I sit down before I’ve walked things out, there’s kind of an anxiety in me, like a dog. If I sit there for too long, I don’t want to get back up. We learn to stay right in the flow and recognize that the pause, that wisdom of insecurity, that wisdom of not knowing, has its own intelligence, speaks its own language. 

In Eros, we try to avoid consummation. We try to live in the gap. One of the ways that we can see Eros is through the analogy of the troubadour and the one that the troubadour courts; the one he courts only gives him slight intimations of connection. He goes out and does great things for that. They say that what lies in between that dynamic tension is so potent, it promotes this greatness, and it’s because they never actually consummate the relationship. 

My challenge is, I’m a little bit too fond of that lack of consummation in every category in my life, so I love that tension. As a result, I think I was born with the blueprint of many books inside of me to come out, and then I had to become the person who could both contain those energies and speak a language, the language that might be received and shift others.

How do you translate that world into this world? That world speaks a much different language, it speaks in high-tone frequencies and sensations, and that’s what I think true art is here to do. My first lover, often my only lover, is my art…I open the screen and feel, then I listen for the words that will have it be an act of making love. My hope is that anybody who reads the work is in the perfume of that making love. 

When you separate from someone, there’s this unknown. There’s this heartbreak inside of this experience of an unknown, and there’s a loss. There’s a loss of a real person and an imagined person. All of this is happening at once. I believe if we leave something in a way where the thing that we’re leaving is wrong, we haven’t left. We’re dragging the loss with us. The question is, how do we take this kind of cocktail, this mixture of dual loss, heartbreak, and the unknown all at once? That is about as salient a mixture as exists on the planet. If we’re hardcore practitioners, that’s the best stuff we can work with. It is the richest and best material to process and transform. 

I got love bombed during the time of COVID. We were in Italy, and we could have left, but we kind of couldn’t leave either, so we stayed in this old monastery. My heart, my life’s work, had been broken. I was experiencing a betrayal, and it was a stunning betrayal, a level of disillusionment unlike anything I could imagine in a country that was shut down during a pandemic, in a place I didn’t know that well with these people I had never actually traveled with before but who are so freaking awesome. Everything was unfamiliar. But I was in this old monastery, thank goodness, and I just sat. 

I remember that I would wake up at four a.m., and I would sit inside of this totally unfamiliar place. One morning it hit me that this new place inside would be awesome. The feeling was incredible. A sign like it was so nutrient-packed, so clean, the feeling prior to thought, the feeling prior to judgment, the feeling prior to my assessment or my planning or my figuring out what was going on. So I just determined, I was going to live in a very narrow core of that feeling, and from there, I was going to create. 

How do we move through heartbreak or pain or severe loss? Turn all pain into art. 

Cooking can be artful. Walking can be artful. Visioning of your life can be artful. Writing can be artful. Video can be artful. Find a form and convert your pain into it. 

We will discover that pain can become a better lover than any lover we’ve ever had. What happened to me was that pain became a source and fuel for what delivered the most exquisite sensation of stasis that existed. Pure revelatory rapture came from that pain. I spent five years writing day in and day out from that particular pain. I got to the place where I love pain, if I honor it and follow the instructions that have to do with converting it into beauty. 

A woman who doesn’t know her value has no potential for the truth, and will be uprooted or carried away from that truth. For me, art is synonymous with the feminine and requires a level of fidelity, partisanship, and ferocity. 

Buddha had three challenges. The first challenge was, when he got attacked, he had to not attack back. The second was that he got seduced by Mara’s daughters, which is the desire to be liked, have name and fame. His third challenge, the hardest one, was doubt. Mara said, “you aren’t really enlightened,” and the Buddha just put his hand on the ground and the earth rose up as his witness. 

As artists, we’re constantly facing those challenges and living in that field. If we’re good artists, that field is loud and intense and strong, because that means we’re pulling really strong, primordial energies into our art. The path of being a woman and being an artist are synonymous. 

I’ve gone every route. This is where I’ve made the challenges into my art. I tell my editors that when we go through final edits on my memoir, I want them to imagine there’s no audience. I don’t care if anybody understands this book. I have to write the book that’s been written through me, in order for me to be able to live with myself. 

One economist guy said to me, years ago, when I was thinking about writing a memoir,  “Nicole, write the book you want to write because even if you succeed at a book you didn’t want to write, you won’t be gratified. And if you fail at a book that you didn’t want to write, you’ll want to kill yourself. Write the book that you want to write.” 

I didn’t have the courage or fortitude or strength or clarity or I wasn’t beaten up enough yet, and I still had the “they say” instinct. When we’re burning out our karma, the hardest karma to burn out is name and fame. We have to live so enmeshed in deep, sexual relationship with our art that we know it will transform the room. 

When I first started OM, I faked it. I didn’t know…I just thought everyone was faking it. So I thought, if I yell louder then that means I look like I’m getting off better, and doing a better job, and to do a good job, that’s what’s important. I was in this intense course and a woman went into a state of orgasm, so that I could see that when it was on, even when she was silent, it was incontrovertible. I couldn’t deny it. She didn’t have to do a thing. And I remember understanding that’s how I want to live. I want to live in that way. That’s incontrovertible, and that’s the kind of art I want to create as well. 

I do care that others can receive this that I’m carrying forward. I care deeply. But I don’t do it for them because if I’m doing it for them, I’m not bringing them anything, I’m just bringing them regurgitated material that everybody else can bring. I’m here to bring something absolutely unique. 

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