by Susa Talan
What do I know about a roar? I know that a roar doesn’t only come from the mouth of a lion or a large green hulk or a tiny babe. I know that inside me a roar can laugh and lurk and loathe. I know that one roar can cause another, like a domino roar. In matters of social equality, this is the best outcome of a roar. To roar about what matters most and share it with others. Together it becomes a community roar. A march-on-the-streets-hear-us-roar kind of roar.
Sometimes I have a roar like a fight and all it wants to do is punch. Sometimes it’s more like a head-butt looking for a hug. I have a roar that comes out quick and furious. It’s marked by certainty and it likes to feel heard. But if there’s one roar I can count on to roll her terrible eyes and gnash her terrible teeth, it’s the most ancient of roars. Instead of fists, it has wings—it flies like a dragon from out of my past, carrying something old and fearful. It pierces like a dart. It conjures up hurt and belonging and it forgets about time. In the face of certain triggers, it feels like a victim and gets tangled up in shame. It’s my nemesis roar. Yes, I’ve seen it cause harm to others and I’ve seen it cause harm to me, too. It’s the one that cuts me at my knees and squeezes my heart. I’ve spent my life with this roar. We know each other well.
I’ve heard that Tibetans say the mind lives somewhere behind the heart. So they use the words mind and heart interchangeably. Ten years ago some version of this ancient roar took over my heart. It bounced, it trampled, it set up residence. My mind became a house on fire. Wisdom ran out of every door. I was in a lot of pain. More than I could articulate. A thousand roars for a thousand hurts. It took some time, but the fire burned itself out. One roar replaced another. Some roars ceased to be. I learned how to take better care of myself. I learned how to care for my heart-mind.
In the last few years, I’ve seen ashes bring new growth. Wisdom walked back inside my house-mind-heart and my ancient roar has been growing up or out or inward, I’m not sure which. The space that used to roar feels more and more like a canyon or a big night sky. It’s more space than stars. More farmer than foe. A generous “I can hold all this” sort of feel.
It sounds funny to say, but I think there’s more wisdom in my roar. Sure, there’s plenty of present-tense things to still roar about. I can gnash my horrible teeth and roar my horrible roar. But it’s not so horrible or terrible anymore. I’m not hurting myself or others as much. I know what’s coming and don’t feel so blindsided. It arises and passes away with more ease and less resistance. Sad roar. Angry roar. Grief roar. Injustice roar. No-words-just-roar kind of roar. The roar isn’t the problem. It’s how I hold it that matters.
I am reminded that the Buddha gave many teachings on the importance of cultivating wise speech. Throughout all the sutras, speech was given the most attention. Why? Because we speak with so many unconscious habits. We go from thoughts to speech to actions so quickly, and often unwisely, that it’s an easy place to have regret. So if we can cultivate wise speech, why not a wise roar? This kind of roar is timely and useful. It speaks truth and doesn’t exaggerate just to make a point. A wise roar arises from seeing things as they are and knowing when to roar and when to listen. Knowing when to move into action and when to be still.
Feeling the attitude of the roar, seeing it clearly, and inviting it in is the surest way to learn from it. Which is radical. Because it means that instead of acting as the roar, I’m observing it. Not surprisingly, this becomes another way of letting it go. The roar moves in, it moves through. Big scary roar? Nah. Roar schmoar.
Susa Talan is a Massachusetts-based artist, writer and author of the book, “Wear Gratitude (Like A Sweater)” published by Rock Point in 2015. Susa’s line of greeting cards and annual calendar inspire courage, contemplation and joy in people of all ages. Her paper products and illustration work can be found in magazines, bookstores and shops throughout the US.
Susa is also a trained educator, former parent coach and long-time student of yoga and meditation. As a facilitator, she weaves her love of learning, language and art with her deep interest in the mind and nature. Her workshops offer a platform for cultivating creativity and wisdom, as well as awareness and self-care. When not in her studio, she heads outdoors towards open sky. Learn more and say hello at www.susatalan.com