All posts by earthwalking13

Stearley still hasn’t figured out what he wants to be when he grows up, but he plans on not growing up too much. He’s weathered two careers; first as a critical care nurse and then as an attorney. Always a wordsmith, he freelances, consults, and teaches when he is not out seeking counsel in the wilderness. He finds hiking to be moving meditation and seeks meaning in natural language and signs, not in the doctrine embodied with societal domestication.

Wuji – No Limits

Wuji – No Limits, by Harold Stearley at Earthwalking

I wasn’t far from the Firepit, sharing time at a primordial level.  A visit with the Ancestors.  A Community in the Void.  To find answers? 

Or perhaps just to realize which questions to ask?

The fire crackled as the Earthly aroma permeated the crisp night air.  Whorling upward, coiling with widening arms like that of our spiral galaxy, the Milky Way.  Norma-Cygnus, Sagittarius, Scutum-Crux, and Perseus all reaching outward, embracing you, inebriating you with the release of GrandFather Sun’s stored energy.  Burning as brightly as our Dantians within, our Seas of Qi.  A dynamism unmatched.  A gift from the Great Star Nation.   

Where would these forces of Nature take me? 

My intuition instructed me to focus on the flames, the smoke, the forming coals, the glowing embers. They took on their characteristic checkered pattern, those coals, the weaving of flames through wood.  A braiding down the length of each limb as they wrapped themselves in reverse spirals from the smoke. 

But then, something else.

I began seeing symbols etched into these glowing branches.  Hieroglyphics, pictographs, petroglyphs, but not carved or drawn in caves, or on stone walls, or in high temples.  No these were living, breathing messages from beyond.  Ever changing and vanishing with the smoke.

I made mental notes, my own snapshots in time, hoping to recall this mysterious language later.  And suddenly two words in English appeared, embedded in those coals.

“No Limits.”

And then they were gone.  Charred ash fallen to the ground.  Reduced to the same Stardust of their original carbon composition.  Of what we are all hewn from.

I took this as a literal meaning.  There are “no limits” to this lifetime.  Only limitations we place on ourselves. 

But as with all messages of this type, it takes time to solidify, to integrate, to release hidden meanings.  Or perhaps synchronous ones.

***

Present day.  I was running through a QiGong routine and one of the standing meditation poses is called Wuji, or the Bear Pose. 

As you settle into this position, you are elongating your spine, the Crown of your head is pulled up by an imaginary Golden Thread drawing it up towards the Heavens.  You tuck your chin but relax your jaw.  Legs are squared off shoulder-length apart, knees in line over feet that are parallel to each other.  You bend your knees slightly but don’t lock them. Relax your shoulders and your chest. Your hands are held down in front of you dropping to full arm’s-length, wrists bent at 90 degrees with the palms facing upward.  And you sit down [Barely or Bearly 😊],* rolling the end of your sacrum – imagining being connected to a Cord running deep within the Earth’s core – opening “The Gate of Life” or “Power” or the “Point of Origin” [the ‘Mingmen’ point].

You are weightless.

This is also called the “emptiness posture.” 

Later in the day, after finishing practicing some Tai Chi forms, I sit in front of my computer looking for a file about the same.  And what should I stumble upon, but a file outlining the meaning of Wuji or “Wu Chi.”**  I had saved it.  For this very day apparently.

***

Now I’m sure you’ve had days like mine where I start out with an idea of how the day will go, but I diverge from that path.  I mean, I already have a scattered thought pattern, and it is more so lately as I have multiple things on my plate.

But today was different.  Different in the sense of how I circled back to that moment before the Fire, and a message from six months ago, and how that message ties into absolutely everything. 

The file I had saved explained that Wuji or “Wu Chi” refers to the “Unmanifest Aspect of the Tao.”  But what is this “Aspect?”  It is the “state of non-distinction prior to the differentiation into the Yin and Yang,” which in turn, gave birth to “all of the phenomena of the manifest world.”

Wuji or Wu Chi is subject to several literal translations but, ultimately, they all lead to the words “no” or “none” and “limits” or “extreme boundaries.”  Thus, “No Limits.”  Emptiness in any movement or activity.  In this state of mind and body, “Nothing separates me from my surroundings.”

Or yet another way of looking at that would be nothing separates me from “All My Relations.”

There are many translations of Lao-tzu’s Tao Te Ching.  Turning to Johnathan Star’s translation of Chapter 28, we find this concept of “No Limits.”

Hold your male side with your female side

Hold your bright side with your dull side

Hold your high side with your low side

Then you will be able to hold the whole world.

When the opposing forces unite within

there comes a power abundant in its giving

and unerring in its effect.

Flowing through everything

It returns one to the First Breath.

Guiding everything

It returns one to No Limits.

Embracing everything

It returns one to the Uncarved Block.***

When the Block is divided

it becomes something useful

and leaders can rule with just a few pieces.

But the Sage holds the Block complete

Holding all things within himself

he preserves the Great Unity

which cannot be ruled or divided.

There is indeed a state of “No Limits,” but it’s not quite the message as I had originally surmised.  It is a return to that infinite, unlimited, boundless, timeless, undifferentiated state of existence. 

As I return to the Fire, now blazing in my household, I stare into those flames holding tight to what cannot be held, the limitless state of non-duality.  Looking to hold all things within myself, “which cannot be ruled or divided.”

In Metta

* Rabbit Hole # 1:  A note from my Ag School days, I had taken a class in Animal Sanitation and Disease Prevention that was taught by a Veterinarian.  This Doctor had served in the Air Force and had assisted with the development of the ejection seat for pilots.  Of course, they could not use skilled pilots to test this mechanism out, so they looked for an animal with the same hip structure that could sit down like us humans.  You guessed it, they used Bears.  They sedated them and sent them, seated in a jet-fueled contraption mimicking the cockpit of a plane, down a railroad track and, at the right moment, blew them up into the sky in their chair hoping the parachute would open.  The Vet did not report any Bears getting injured.  Just an interesting aside from the so-labeled “Bear Pose” or position, where you sit down, Bearly. 😊

** Rabbit Hole # 2: If you want further reading, you can find this article on the Web, titled, “The Meaning of Wuji (Wu Chi), the Un-manifest Aspect of the Tao.

*** Rabbit Hole #3: Various translations of the Tao refer to it as an Uncarved Block of Wood and use this in various descriptive manners.  I’ve seen it in Stephen Mitchell’s translation, but I don’t believe I saw it mentioned at all in Witter Bynner’s translation.  Mitchell’s is, perhaps, a bit more pragmatic, while Bynner’s is very poetic. Whatever translation of the Tao you may find, enjoy. 

An Accidental Transpersonal Experience

By Harold Stearley at Earthwalking

Warning: This post is about mystical stuff. If you don’t like that kind of stuff you can stop reading now. 🙂

***

Quite a few years back in my undergrad days, I had access to the biofeedback lab at the university.  The goal was using their machines to lower my heart rate and respirations.  To achieve a state of complete relaxation. 

The little tones beeping from the machine you wired yourself up to weren’t a distraction but were an adjunct to assist you with hitting the set goals.  The rate of the beeping reflected the rate of your heart rate and respirations until you were able to lower them to the desired parameters. Thus, heart rate lowered, respirations decreased, no more beeping. 

I would be laying on a mat on the floor. My head on a pillow.  The temperature of the room was warm and comfortable. 

But while I was relaxing in the lab one day, I experienced a “side effect.”  I guess you could call it that.  I had a spontaneous vision, or experience, or a visualization; whatever you wish to call it.  I discovered, just recently, a term for these experiences – transpersonal.

Continue reading An Accidental Transpersonal Experience

The Cape

By Harold Stearley At Earthwalking

I really wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I pulled into this Washington State Park.  I wanted to spend a couple of relaxing days on the Ocean.  Rejuvenate my body.  It’s not that my Mind or Spirit needed rest.  My senses had been flooded this trip with such a continual string of breathtaking sights that I was on a natural high.  But I had been punishing my Body.  Pushing myself to my physical limits and beyond.  On the road an average of every six to seven days, without pause, and hiking continuously.  I even needed to do some sewing before hiking again, repair my daypack, as I had managed to tear a few holes in it.

Yeah, a few days on a Pacific beach sounded wonderful.  And besides, I’d have a new experience of staying in a Yurt. 

Continue reading The Cape

A Book Review . . .

By Harold Stearley At Earthwalking

Disclaimer:  The views expressed below are entirely my own.  Other people reading this work of non-fiction may have a completely different take on it and find my conclusions to be erroneous.  But they can write their own blogs, this one relays my experience and my interpretations.  Also, the book is 484 pages long, so in my attempt to condense and summarize, I may have to leave out specific details out of necessity.  This does not mean that I did not read this book thoroughly, I did. I felt compelled to write this review . . .

The book is: “Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West,” written by Stephen E. Ambrose.

I give Ambrose credit for his research and thoroughness with telling this story, however, at first blush, I must point out the obvious bias the author demonstrates towards Meriwether Lewis.  All throughout the book, the author describes Lewis’s effort to get William Clark recognized and share equal stature with himself.  For example, the War Department turned down the request to give Clark an equal rank with Lewis and only approved a Lieutenant’s rank for Clark as opposed to a Captain’s rank.  Yet Lewis and Clark decided not to tell their men this and addressed each other equally as Captains.  They served as co-equal partners commanding the expedition.  This was emphasized over and over again.

Yet despite the constant dialog throughout of Clark’s equal status, the author noticeably leaves Clark’s name out of the title of the book.  It is, however, the author’s book and he is obviously free to choose the title, I just picked up on this smack-you-the-face contradiction between the title and what’s conveyed in the text between the covers.  Hard to miss that one.

But before I venture too far with my criticisms, I do want to point out what I consider to be remarkable about the book and the personalities described therein.

There is no doubt that the trek across the American West by these individuals is remarkable.  Round trip, it was some 8000 miles.  These guys were tough.  Lewis frequently walked the banks of the Missouri River while his men navigated via keelboat, canoes, and pirogues, using paddle, pole and wind, and the expedition averaged some 20 miles per day going up-river.  Lewis kept pace with the vessels by simply walking, and I remember at least one mention of hiking some 35 miles in a day. 

That’s tough by my standards.

The men endured various illnesses and treatments with the completely wrong medicines, and all survived except one man.  They also endured times of food shortages and serve weather.  Lewis even survived being shot in the ass by one of his own men with a .54 caliber Army issue bullet.  Whether this was accidental or on purpose no one knows as the shooter denied having shot his Captain.

Sacagawea, a Shoshone, joins the group as the 15-year-old wife of a French-Canadian named Toussaint Charbonneau, who had won her in a bet from the Hidatsa, who had, in turn, captured her in a raid on Shoshone encampment. She was six months pregnant at the time and would give birth to her son during the expedition.  She would also provide her knowledge on food sources and serve as a translator to the Shoshones and assist the bargaining for Shoshone horses to cross the Continental Divide and the Bitterroot Mountains.  Clearly, she endured more than the men, yet little credit is given to her, and the author notes that she received no payment for her services as did the men.  (The party procured horses from the Nez Perce on their return trip as well as collecting some of their previous ones).

Back to the successes of the adventure. 

While no continuous water route was found to the Pacific coast as was sought, the party encountered many First Nations Peoples, promoted peace between the tribes (albeit arrogantly and with no understanding of the cultures and customs), and they did “find” the overland route to connect the Missouri breaks with the Columbia River and mapped out the territory.  I’ll get back to that word “find” in a little bit.

Lewis is credited as being a planter, soldier, ethnographer, botanist, zoologist, geographer, astronomer, cartographer (that was really Clark), linguist, woodsman, and explorer.  Basically, he is portrayed as a God-like figure who most probably carved out the entire basin for the Pacific Ocean with his bare hands after swallowing a dozen buffalo in one bite for lunch.  Oh, please excuse my sarcasm.  On page 482, the author finally backpedals and states: “His talents and skills ran wider than they did deep.” And he points out that his best quality was actually leadership. (Footnote 1) .

In a footnote on page 404, the author credits Lewis by stating: “He had discovered and described 178 new plants, more than two-thirds of them from west of the Continental Divide, and 122 species and subspecies of animals.”  I take strong issue with the word “discovered.”

And now for my real criticismsWhat I said above was just a warm-up. 😊

Ok, so let’s go back to the beginning.  On the very first page of text, in the introduction on page 13, the author states that Lewis was the “first” American to cross the Continental Divide.  Ok, this is a joke right?  The author totally ignores some 14,800 years of history that has been extensively documented of the First Nations Peoples’ occupation and travel across the Americas.  In fact, the expedition had to rely on Indian guides to take them through the mountains on established Native trails.  Had the guides not crossed these mountains first, they obviously could not have served as guides. (Footnote 2).

I will have to say, that I have never read the words “first” and “discovered” so many times in a single book attributing credit to a single individual, while completely ignoring the actual people who encountered these plants and animals and made the journey through these mountains and up and down these rivers for centuries prior to the colonists’ arrival on the East Coast. 

The proper term for Lewis, in these contexts, should be the “first white, European, colonist,” or perhaps “imperialist,” of English descent, who did whatever it was Lewis did after so many others had before him – including, perhaps, French trappers and Spanish explorers. 

Lewis and Clark’s travels were also probably preceded by the British traders based up in Canada that were frequently mentioned because of the desire to shut the North West Company out of business.  But I get it, first “American.” Right. There are only three times that I remember the author saying the “first white man” to have done or experienced something.

I will give credit to the fact that Lewis drafted lengthy descriptions of the animals and plants encountered and putting that into writing in the English language may have been a first.   The First Nations’ Peoples largely relied on storytelling and hieroglyphics but were probably more insightful as to the beneficial relationships and usefulness of the natural resources.  The Native populations also practiced conservation, while the Europeans preferred mass slaughter and harvested resources into extinction, but I suppose that’s another story for another day. (Footnote 3).

Included with Ambrose’s litany of Lewis’s “firsts,” is claiming that he is the first American to kill a Grizzly Bear (p. 247).  Lewis, with his superiority complex, pays no attention to the warnings from the First Nations Peoples about showing this Spirit some respect and how difficult it is to kill one.  Instead, Lewis assumes that if these individuals had trouble killing a grizzly, it must be because of their primitive and inferior skills and weapons.  He soon learns just how wrong he is about engaging in such combat as the Bears show no fear and go on the offensive even when shot multiple times.  His men are seen running away from the Grizzly on more than one occasion.  (Footnote 4).

There is nothing short of continuous denigration of the First Nations Peoples by Lewis with the constant over-lording references to their new “Father” or “White Father” referring to Jefferson (a prominent slaveholder).  Lewis is plagued with an extreme inflation of his own self-importance as he talks down to the tribes and believes he can command them with his pronouncements.  He also never misses a chance, as “ethnographer” to insult the Native populations, even those Nations who provided him with food and assistance.  Never. Even if he has extended a compliment, it is followed by an insult.

On page 357, after describing an instance where Lewis nearly let his anger override his judgment regarding the “Chinookans,” where Lewis may have torched a village if a few goods that had been pilfered had not been recovered, Ambrose states:

To modern eyes, this looks suspiciously like racism, just as Lewis’s resolve to burn down the village raises images of the U.S. Army in the Indian wars and in Vietnam. But if one means by racism a blind prejudice toward native Americans, based upon false but fully believed stereotypes, Lewis was no racist. When he talked about Indian ‘nations’ he meant the word just as he applied it to European peoples. He was keenly aware of the differences between tribes, a subject he wrote about at length and with insight. He liked some Indians, admired others extravagantly, pitied some, despised a few.

His response to native Americans was based on what he saw and was completely different from his response to African Americans.  With regard to blacks, he made no distinctions between them, made no study of them, had no thought that they could be of benefit to America in any capacity other than slave labor.

But, despite his cold-blooded words and resolutions, and his hatred of the Chinooks, what stands out about his journey up the lower Columbia in the spring of 1806 is that he got through it without ever once ordering a man to put a torch to an Indian home, and no man ever fired a rifle at a native. “

I could easily point out the poor choice of words Ambrose uses in this last sentence distinguishing “man” from “native,” but I’ll laugh that one off.  Despite Ambrose’s attempt to paint this white European arrogance as anything but racist, on pages 370-372, for a second time, Ambrose refers to Lewis’s statement made at Lemhi Pass in 1805, “that anything the Indians could do, he and his men could do.”  “Even after seeing the Clastsops and Chinooks in their canoes, after seeing the Nez Perce ride their horses, he retained the notion of white superiority.”  (Both tribes demonstrated vast superiority with their skills over the white imperialists.)

To further cement this notion, if there were any doubt, when Lewis is describing his Indian plan regarding improving the American fur trade, Lewis states that it was “a scheme . . . the most expedient that I can devise for the successful consummation of [our] philanthropic views towards those wretched people of America.” (p.442) Lewis’s scheme was to run the British out and create trade-dependence with the Indians – subjugating them through capitalism in modernity’s tongue. (Footnote 5).

He even thought that to boycott the Sioux, the least susceptible to his pronouncements, would bring them begging to the great “white father.”  Of course, this simple mindedness completely ignores the First Nations Peoples’ ability to survive the harshest of circumstances – those which the white Europeans on this very expedition would not have survived, except for the help of the native populations.

But before I stray too far from my original point, Ambrose’s attempt to paint Lewis’s racism as nothing more than white supremacy is what I believe is facepalm worthy.  Seriously, Ambrose has such a man-crush on Meriwether Lewis that he tries to gloss over what he has painstakingly proven throughout his book. Lewis may have seen and written about differences between tribes, but he believed blindly that whites were superior to them all – that, my friend, is racist.

In perhaps another wave of ironies, Lewis’s and Jefferson’s Indian plan required a full-scale change of all First Nations Peoples’ cultures and lifestyles.  It was predicated on “inducing the Missouri River and Rocky Mountain Indians to become trappers and traders” and to abandon a nomadic hunting and sustenance culture that included inter-tribal raids and conflict.  In fact, a Hidatsa warrior drove this point home when asking Lewis what their nations would do for chiefs should peace be attained, because chiefs were selected based upon their heroic acts in battle.  Bravery was the prime virtue in the structure of Indian politics.

Ambrose continues: “They would have to be conquered and cowed before they could be made to abandon war. Jefferson’s dream of establishing through persuasion and trade a peaceable kingdom among the western Indians was as much an illusion as his dream of an all-water route to the Pacific.” (p. 288)

Ambrose calls this a “great disappointment” that the “men of the Enlightenment” would accept because these men accepted facts, and Lewis, the great ethnographer, through his documentation helped to establish these facts. 

Ok, so I found myself laughing at the concept of these men being “enlightened” in any fashion, and I backtracked to refresh my memory of what defined the so-called “Age of Enlightenment.”  This “age” was defined as a European intellectual moment during the 17th and 18th centuries in which the use of “reason” was the predominant focus for humans understanding their universe to improve their condition; the goals of which included gaining knowledge, freedom, and happiness.  

Another summation, pulled from the online version of Encyclopedia Britannica stated: “The great geniuses of the 17th century confirmed and amplified the concept of a world of calculable regularity, but, more importantly, they seemingly proved that rigorous mathematical reasoning offered the means, independent of God’s revelation, of establishing truth.” (Footnote 6).

So there you have it, these “men of Enlightenment” supposedly fully comprehended the social, cultural, and political structures of the First Nations Peoples and decided the inferior race needed to be conquered to promote commerce. And conquering meant destroying. “While Lewis and Clark had a great interest in documenting Indian cultures, they represented a government whose policies can now be seen to have fostered dispossession and cultural genocide.” (Footnote 7).

To sum up:

The expedition lasted from May 14, 1804, through September 23, 1806.  Jefferson requested $2500 to fund the expedition but he granted Lewis authority to write unlimited “draws” so the total cost ended up being $38,722.25.  That would represent a tremendous sum in today’s dollars.

For inexplicable reasons, Lewis hung onto his journals preventing their publication, and it wasn’t until 1814, five years after his death in 1809, that his journals were published having lost most of their relevancy as the frontier was no longer new and unexplored.

Lewis died on October 10, 1809, at the age of 35 from a horrendous suicide involving him shooting himself twice and cutting himself “from head to foot” with a razor. (p. 475).  At the time of his death, he was suffering from alcoholism, opium and morphine addiction, syphilis, malaria, and quite apparently depression.  

Now there are some facts that were never conveyed in any history class I have ever sat in.

In Metta

Feature Photo: It seemed appropriate to include a pic of the Pacific Coastline in light of the subject matter, an expedition to the Ocean and back. And even more appropriate to include one of Cape Disappointment – right around the bend from where the Columbia River greets the Ocean – the ultimate objective of the expedition. I had a hard time deciding which pic to post because this area is so beautiful. Wish I could have seen it in 1806.

Footnote 1: Indeed, Lewis had received training in these fields through President Jefferson and Jefferson’s associates, but his weaknesses are revealed when he must hire experts to prepare his journal for publication.  Something he delays and that doesn’t occur until after his death.  BTW, he never hired an editor, which would have been the wisest thing he could have done given his and Clark’s own limited proper grammar, usage, and spelling of the English language.

Footnote 2: In fact, there is other evidence of ancient tools being found in Meadowcroft Rockshelter Pennsylvania dating back to 19,000 years old, which could support a theory of early European migration.

Footnote 3: I will use, for the most part, the terms “First Nations People” in place of “American Indians” when describing those living in the Americas prior to the mass European invasion, because there are those who like to contest the terms “indigenous” and “native” because the first people here migrated from Asia on the West Coast, and possibly, although not confirmed, from Europe on the East Coast.  DNA evidence confirms the migration from Asia all the way down through North America to Argentina in South America.  And the well-preserved remains found in Monte Verde, Chili date back to 14,800 years. 

Footnote 4: To put some of my remarks in context, Ambrose is frequently quoting from Lewis’s or Clark’s journals, so they are speaking in the first person.  So when I refer to certain remarks, it is not from an inference by Ambrose, it is because Lewis and/or Clark are directly speaking through their writings.

Footnote 5: We see how well this political plan worked between the US and China., where the US thought the introduction of capitalism to China would destroy Chinese Communism and make China dependent on the US.

Footnote 6: Enlightenment: European History: Age of Reason Aufklärung, siècle de Lumières

Footnote 7: Lewis and Clark Expedition: Pacific Ocean and Return

Rabbit Hole1:

I point out a basic defect with “American History” as taught in this country, which is plagued with bias and inaccuracy. I use for example the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War. Do you think most people in this country actually know the history of this war? When did it start and when did it end? (April 19, 1775 through September 3, 1783.) Most people I talked to seem to think the war either started or was over when the Declaration of Independence was issued on July 4, 1776, and they know absolutely nothing, correctly, about the events leading up to the war.

They also don’t know the history behind who became the country’s first president. George Washington was the first president under the US Constitution, which was adopted on June 21, 1788 and which created the executive branch of government. Washington was elected February 4, 1789. Technically, the first “President” following the Revolution was John Hanson. He was the first President of the Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation and he served from November 5, 1781 until November 3, 1782. He’s even the guy who established Thanksgiving as the fourth Thursday in November, although we know the history behind that has been blurred considerably. Hanson was one of eight men appointed to serve one-year terms under the Articles of Confederation before the Constitution was ratified. See The John Hanson Story.

While some might believe such details are unimportant or irrelevant, I believe knowing the true history, and the surrounding circumstances is essential to understanding how this county’s government functions. Or if it’s in a state of dysfunction. Just like it’s important to know this country was born out of slavery and genocide. It’s convenient to ignore those facts, like the men of the “Enlightenment.”

Rabbit Hole 2:

I have a couple of pet peeves regarding The Declaration of Independence that are appropriate to address in this rabbit hole.  In the list of grievances the colonists delineated begins with the statement:

“The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.”

It then lists 27 grievances, the last of which reads:

“He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”

Chew on that uninformed bias for a while.  Why would the First Nations Peoples feel their independence was declared in this document? And who perpetrated genocide on who?

My next peeve is that people simply do not actually study their own county’s history or read and understand the country’s significant documents.  I don’t know how many times I hear people saying that the United States Constitution guarantees us the rights to pursue “life, liberty and happiness.”  In fact, the Constitution says no such thing.  The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution state that governments cannot deprive any person of “life, liberty, or property” without due process of law.  This is by no means a guarantee, and “happiness” is no where to be found in the document that sets out the supreme law of the land.

“Happiness” is included in the Declaration of Independence in the sentence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  The Declaration does not set out enforceable law.  Sorry folks.  You’re responsible for your own happiness.  It is not law and is not the government’s responsibility.  😊

Writing’s a Bitch, So is Soul Searching

By Harold Stearley At Earthwalking

I thought that while I was plugging away on a new post that I’d re-post this old one.  I had posted it long before I had many followers, so perhaps you might enjoy it if you haven’t already seen it.  This piece was one of my first after a long hiatus from writing, while I waited for retirement 🙂

***

This article appeared in The Urban Howl on January 10, 2018 http://theurbanhowl.com/

Warning: This might get heavy. If you don’t like reading more than 140 characters stop now. If you don’t like introspection and self-examination, turn around. If you don’t like thinking about the writing life, expansion of consciousness, freedom or soul searching, well you know…

We all know it, writing is a bitch.

Some days, while standing in the line at the grocery store, the words just flow, like we are channeling from the Universe, and we’re scrambling for a piece of paper before they’re gone. We know that they can never be recalled in the exact fashion we first held them.

Other days, we sit staring at the screen and nothing comes, the mind is numb. And some days, you just need to jump in the car and drive 1400 miles to that cabin in the middle of nowhere to kill off all of the distractions, to force yourself inward, to open the gate, to find the words, your true voice and, similarly, to find your soul.

I just completed the drive.

I do a lot of driving in the early morning hours. Up at 1:00, out the door by 2:00. You can cover a lot of distance before the rest of the world is stirring. But there’s an eerie quality to driving at that time of day, depending on where you’re at. Good highways, good lighting, good signage, city lights, and especially the moon can all be warming — they add definition to that dark and empty landscape.

But then the navigator wants to save you some time and you’re off on that two-lane, undivided highway, with no shoulders, no lights, few reflectors, and sometimes no center lines, and you wonder what the hell are you going to run up on as you fly down that gray ribbon at 70 miles per hour, give or take.

So, I latched onto a truck, a single, box-like entity sharing this 100-mile radius. I know that guy will light the road ahead of me, and he’s going in my direction. I can tell he is following his navigator too — headed straight for the left-hand turn we are both supposed to take down that next stretch of lonely highway.

He comes to a stop, no turn is there; a concrete barrier instead. We both sit in silence, then slowly head down the road a mile, execute a U-turn and come back to where the mysterious road is supposed to be, but this time from the other direction. A right turn appears and we are headed south.

I guess navigators don’t see all of the barriers — neither do we, especially the ones we create for ourselves.

As we speed away, I suddenly see a blast of dust kick up on the roadway. The trucker’s trailer, blowing sideways in the high winds, dipped off the edge of the road into the dirt. The trailer heaves up to the right as the dirt grabs hold of the tires, left-sided tires leave the pavement, skyward bound. I thought it might flip, but it doesn’t roll. He somehow pulls it back on the road. I’m glad for him.

Time to back off a bit, back into the darkness. Sometimes we spend time there figuratively as well, avoiding our own light.

Our minds are jealous beasts. They want to control the environment, to tell you what it is you are seeing and experiencing, but there is little you can see in this time and place. The mind wants to fill the darkness, fill that void with something familiar — give it shape, give it form. And so it does.

Outlines of mountains that aren’t really there. Cloud formations. The moon, three-quarters full, slowly becomes round and full — the circle complete, but then it sets. You realize these things aren’t there and you still can’t really tell where you are going. Nothing but headlights punching a momentary hole in the darkness and tail lights glowing red behind.

Nothing in front of you and nothing behind you beyond where those lights can reach, where their rays dissipate, swallowed by the night. You hold on for dawn and pray for it. And when it finally comes, when those first slivers of light pierce the darkness, you’ve traveled some 300 miles and you awake in a different landscape. No longer the flat Texas panhandle.

Instead, there are mountains and cacti and desert chaparral. A freight train appears to the east momentarily dissecting the plain and the road, from the mountains. You instinctively count cars, register if they’re carrying grain or coal. It’s hard to shut that brain off.

But the new world floods your senses and it is pleasingly disorienting. It stops the mind, the internal dialog. All you can do is experience, take it all in. Time and space have expanded from the simple act of driving out of your boundaries. You see, people’s worlds seem to be in a constant state of contraction.

When we were children we experienced those endless days of summer because we lived freely in the here and now. Our imaginations raced, we played, we observed, we wondered, we were always wowed. Nothing was taken for granted. We weren’t reined in by fabricated definitions or borders. The sky could be red if we wanted it to be. We played in foreign lands. The thickets and woods were a jungle. A cat, a mountain lion. We weren’t bound by math or history or science, only the limits of our senses and what we could dream up. Our worlds expanded. Time stood still.

The essence changed slightly in our teens. Still free of societal responsibilities, we became invincible. Play took different forms, sometimes more dangerous, stretching the limits, but there was always laughter. We swung the world by its tail. We owned the here and now.

But as we age, the boundaries and borders come. We have been force-fed society’s definitions and bound by its rules. We are assigned roles to play. Told dreams aren’t real, and never can be. We are given work. Our identities narrow. Time and space begin to contract. Our worlds shrink. At first to a community sphere, family and friends, a home and job, and eventually a smaller home when the kids have grown, then a room as we become feeble, and then gone.

We fill our shrinking world with distractions and we’ve created massive amounts of media to do just that. Television, movies, computers, social media, smartphones — these all make us feel like we are interacting with a larger universe. No longer confined to that commute to and from work in a box on wheels, in a ten-by-twelve living room, in that eight-by-eight office space. These prisons without bars.

If we’re lucky, and perhaps diligent, we can maintain some of that childlike view of the world. We might even travel while our bodies are able, and we should. Travel expands space and time. Travel, breaking out of our self-imposed boxes, is freedom. Freedom to experience anew.

One thing we seem to want to avoid, that is always available to us, is that inward journey. We are always filling our voids with outside experiences, seeking solutions outside of ourselves, searching for another person to be with, anything to keep from looking inside. Not all of the external is bad, and it should still be pursued.

We are social animals, and the unfamiliar internal world can be frightening. And so, we often do anything we can to avoid truly engaging in introspection and self-examination, figuring out who you are, and exploring the soul.

It can be painful work.

Some even lose themselves to a communal identity. They speak in clichés and platitudes, and they exercise as little independent thought as possible. They meld in. They try not to think or reason, punch the time clock and become a job, wrap their identity up in an external definition.

“I am a mother, a father, a teacher, a wife, a husband, a homeowner, a gardener, a doctor, a forklift driver.”

They don’t mention that they’re a spirit soul. Or that they’re here to find a soul purpose. Or that they’re preparing for a spiritual life after the body is gone.

People will do anything to avoid their true self. And if you start down that road of soul-seeking, you won’t come back to the mundane world of clichés, you won’t be “right as rain,” or “roll with the punches,” or “go with the flow”.

What you will be is authentic. You’ll see with a clarity that you’ve never had before. You’ll be true to your word. You will feel the world’s vibrations, sense its moments.

Your intuition will magnify, you’ll know people before you meet them. You’ll know your own heart. You’ll feel it when another beats in synch with yours.

So I drove. Travel, motion through the external world, tears down walls, eliminates those borders, returns us to the world of no boundaries, frees our imagination, takes back our minds, and recharges our spirits.

It’s back to that endless summer, clouds that form faces and animals, feeling the grass between my toes, living in the here and now, no distractions from the expansive world around me. I can look into my soul here, for when the world expands, it expands in all directions, including inward.

Funny thing, I was stopped by the Border Patrol — literally this time instead of figuratively — and I had to declare where I was coming from and where I was going. I could just imagine that officer’s reaction if I had told him I was coming from the world of illusion and going to the real world, the place where the spirit roams free.

Our bodies will eventually fail, our worlds will contract, and freedom of movement will be gone. We’ll be trapped inside with only ourselves for a while. We might want to get to know our real selves, make that spiritual journey inward, and free the spirit before that happens. Why wait to be dancing in the light?

In Metta

1-Logo for Watermark - 4 png

Photo:  A Pacific Coast Sunset

COVID the Career Buster – Thoughts?

By Harold Stearley At Earthwalking

So, I’ve kept my articles that might be classified as political to a minimum, because, let’s face it, people are pretty wound up now days about politics and not speaking very objectively. COVID, however should have never become politicized as it is a public health issue. Nevertheless, people have become polarized over this disease, while many many, many, many bodies pile up.

I was on LinkedIn the other day and a fellow RN had posted that she was seriously considering changing her career because of the stress of yet another wave of full ICUs, all COVID patients, and most beds filled with the unvaccinated. Beside patient census and acuity, she’s dealing with short staffing, and with just plain witnessing too much death.

Most of the replies were very supportive, but a few went off the rails in my view and actually started attacking her. The attacks accused her of abandoning her chosen profession and with providing inferior care to patients that were unvaccinated. Now nowhere in her post did she say she was delivering different or an inferior quality of care to any class of patients so those comments came from nowhere other than bizarrioland.

As for abandoning her career, I mean anyone can change a career or job at any point in time. Who’s business is that? Only the person who is changing their source of livelihood.

One gentleman tried to make a comparison to his military career, saying he fought for his country and would never abandon his fellow soldiers. Ok, so? That’s not apples to apples at all. That’s strawberries to hand-grenades.

So what do you think? Should we be trying to dictate people’s career choices? Should we deny there is such a thing as burn out and force people who have RN degrees back into service? I hope not because I’m an RN and I’m happily retired. I’m also an attorney so don’t start talking about rights unless you’ve consulted one or actually know something about Constitutional Law 🙂

Thoughts? Perspectives? Fire away. I can dodge bullets pretty well.

In Metta

Feature Photo: I chose one of my wildflower pics for this post. A field of Red Poppies lines this road in Washington State. I enameled them to make them look more like an oil painting.

Flowers are always soothing and the poppy has been symbolically associated with military veterans – specifically the sacrifice made by those who served and died in all of our wars. It does seem like we’re at war right now. With a disease and with each other.

I wish everyone peace.

And here are a few articles for fun:

Where are Hospitals Overwhelmed by COVID-19 Patients? Look Up Your State

Nurse Workforce Decline During COVID ‘Unprecedented’: Study

Almost All U.S. COVID-19 Deaths Now in the Unvaccinated

Covid-19: US surpasses 800,000 pandemic deaths

Published15 December 2021 BBC News

A man in a mask walks among flags representing those that died from Covid
Image caption, White flags represent each life lost in the US to Covid

More than 800,000 Americans have now died from the coronavirus, the highest recorded national death toll from the global pandemic.

It comes as the US reached 50 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 on Monday.

Most deaths have been recorded among the unvaccinated and the elderly, and more Americans died in 2021 than in 2020.

The US is again seeing deaths rising at an alarming rate.

The last 100,000 deaths came in just the past 11 weeks, a quicker pace than any at other point aside from last winter’s surge.

“The waves of illness that we’re seeing will continue until the population-level immunity is high enough to prevent them. Quite simply, we’re not there yet,” said Dr Keri Althoff, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

It has been more than 650 days since the first American patient dying from Covid-19 was reported in Seattle, Washington (public health officials have since attributed earlier deaths to the virus).

Since the Pfizer vaccine – the first jab to be approved in the US – was rolled out last winter, nearly 300,000 more fatalities have been recorded.

Graphic

In April 2021, two more vaccines – Moderna and single-dose Johnson & Johnson – were approved, and all three vaccines were made available to adults of all ages.

The 800,000 total exceeds the populations of cities such as Boston or Washington DC. The milestone means nearly twice as many Americans have died during the pandemic as in World War 2.

The US death toll far exceeds the official tally of any other country, but experts believe many recorded death counts are under-reporting the true scale of the tragedy.

The next highest are Brazil, with more than 616,000 deaths, and India, which has had over 475,000 deaths.

In terms of deaths per capita, the US currently ranks 20th in the world, trailing several South American and European countries, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Each country in the chart below – except the UK – was initially slower to roll out vaccines than the US. Vaccinations levels in all have since surpassed the US where 61.6% of the population is fully vaccinated.

Reported deaths in selected countries

Deaths from Covid-19 have come in three main waves.

The first – which hit New York City especially hard – peaked in April 2020, before lower rates of infection in the summer and autumn.

A massive spike then occurred last winter after people had travelled and gathered during the holiday season. At its peak in January 2021, more than 3,000 deaths were confirmed a day.

Daily reported Covid-19 deaths in the US

The number of deaths fell significantly last spring as vaccines became widely available, but it soared again by July and through the summer as the highly contagious Delta variant spread.

The elderly have always been the most vulnerable, and despite being the most vaccinated group one in 100 Americans over the age of 65 has died during the pandemic.

Breakthrough cases aside, unvaccinated Americans have made up the vast majority of deaths over the past few months (trends identified in the chart below come from health departments in 24 of 50 US states).

President Joe Biden began calling Covid-19 in the US “a pandemic of the unvaccinated”.

Weekly Covid-19 death rates per capita, vaccinated vs unvaccinated

Dr Althoff contends that the US had “a lot of barriers” to overcome.

“Trust in science has waned, trust in government has waned, vaccine hesitancy is a powerful force, misinformation is rampant,” she told the BBC.

“We have to do more than just trying to educate; we have to try and understand. That takes conversation and trust-building.

With death rates rising once again in much of the country, she said Delta remained a serious problem,

Public health experts are still figuring out what impact the new Omicron variant may have this winter, but officials are urging Americans to get booster shots to combat waning protection.

Milestones . . .

By Harold Stearley At Earthwalking

While I’m not addicted to the stats on our blogs, I do find them interesting at times.  I recently passed my 4-year mark of being on WordPress and I was notified that the blog had received over 50,000 all-times views.  While I’m sure that those who blog more regularly than me have far exceed that number, it does have a nice ring to it.  And viewers came from 135 different countries.

I currently have 306 “published” posts, and I’ve taken down some 200 or so.  All-in-all, not bad for four years, but not particularly excellent in terms of numbers comparing that total to those who blog more consistently. 

I’ve generally written about the things that inspire me, where the writing feels more like channeling, and there are definite periods where the well has run dry.  Particularly in 2021, when I got a bit ticked off at social media plundering, and I found myself residing more in my COVID cave rather than being out in my usual mode of exploration.  

Like I say, I’m sure many of you have long passed these milestones but for me, it’s new.  And I plan on kicking off this new year with something I don’t usually do at all – a book review.  I’m not quite finished reading it so I can’t give you an exact date when I will post, but it will be coming soon. 

I feel compelled to write about this book, not because of its wonderful quality, but because of its profound racism and the author’s apparent inability to see it as such.  A story of epic proportions for sure, but I don’t believe I’ve seen an author so oblivious to this undercurrent.  In fact, at one point he tries to explain it away in a manner that can only be described as face-palm worthy. 

So onward into the new year . . .

In Metta

Feature Photo: This is a pic of a Marina I came upon in Blaine, Washington, right on the border with Canada.  The year I arrived, I had intended to cross the border to visit Vancouver Island, but alas, the border was closed, COVID and all.  I ran the photo through the editor and enameled it to make it appear more as an oil painting.  And I guess I chose this one for this post because, well, I liked it, but also because it can represent that nebulous line between true art, say a painting by a renowned artist, and myself playing about on a computer.  It is pleasing to the eye no doubt, but it does lack the painstaking work that a painter must engage in to produce a masterpiece.  It serves as the contrast I’ll be exploring in the upcoming book review.

I had to cut the pic way down to get it to fit somewhat with WordPress’s formatting, so here is the full image.

Rabbit-hole: You may have noticed that I put the term “published” in quotes, like I just did now.  That is because I find this term very loosely used throughout social media.  When I think of being published, I think of a publishing entity, not of our own design and ownership, finding something we have written worthy of being included in said entity’s publication.  I don’t think of self-publishing as being the same as being “published.”  I see many folks out here identifying with the term “author” and they use this term in conjunction with that word “published,” whereas I would choose the word “writer.”  Although I do recognize that the definition of “author” is loose enough to cover virtually anything we pen, thus: “a person who writes a novel, poem, essay, etc.; the composer of a literary work, as distinguished from a compiler, translator, editor, or copyist.”  Using these terms loosely means we are all distinguished “published authors,” even if our work is but one line scribbled on a piece of toilet paper.  😊 I guess I’m in my critical judge mode today so I will have a nice belly laugh at myself, pet-peeves and all, while it’s time to hit the “publish” button😊

The Wrong Lens

By Harold Stearley At Earthwalking

Radiance Sutras

There is a Place in the Heart where Everything meets.
Go there if you want to find me.
Mind, Senses, Soul, Eternity – All are there.

Are you there?

Enter the Bowl of Vastness that is the Heart.
Give yourself to it with Total Abandon
Quiet Ecstasy is there,
And a steady, regal Sense
Of Resting in a Perfect Spot.

Once you know the Way,
The Nature of Attention will call you to Return.
Again and Again,
And be saturated with Knowing,

I belong here, I am at Home here. 

***

As I attempt to understand the Nature of our Existence, Our Essence, I naturally try to define it with terminology.  And I then end up chasing other terminology to define that terminology.  This process repeats and stretches on into infinity . . .

At least it does for me. 

So, do we really get an answer to those time-worn phrases?  Terminology dissects and divides, which is one of the basic problems with understanding just who and what we are. 

Continue reading The Wrong Lens

Gray Days – Again and Again

By Harold Stearley At Earthwalking

I began a tradition a couple of years back. A tradition of repeating words. Words that I had written to describe the day and the season we were entering into. I’m a bit late this year as November slipped by, and that’s when I usually re-post this. This November wasn’t as Gray as last, but December is pulling that cloak over this Northern Hemisphere.

While Winter is not officially upon us yet, the days of Autumn have definitely past. Grandfather Sun is still moving South. And the atmosphere is shifting into Gray.

I wrote about this “Gray.” It’s “color.” It’s feel. It’s taste. It’s sounds. It’s moods. And eventually, it’s brightness and it’s “Inner Fire.”

So as we enter this season of hibernation, before the awakening and emerging from the Dream Lodge into the new life of Spring, I share these words again.

I hope you will enjoy them.

Continue reading Gray Days – Again and Again

Rainer, The Elk – Stamina and Community

By Harold Stearley At Earthwalking

Wakan Tanka, Great Mystery,

Teach me how to trust My Heart, My Mind, My Intuition, My Inner Knowing, The Senses of my Body, The Blessings of my Spirit. Teach me to trust these things so that I may enter my Sacred Space And Love Beyond my Fear, And thus, Walk in Balance With the passing of each glorious Sun.

– Lakota Prayer

***

Rainer, The Elk – Stamina and Community by Harold Stearley

Long before Sunrise.  Route 431.  Leaving Tahoe.  Headed North.  Some say it’s the direction of Manifestation, others the Coldness and Darkness of Winter. 

It was indeed pitch black at 2 am.

Continue reading Rainer, The Elk – Stamina and Community

Wisdom, Love and Life

By Harold Stearley At Earthwalking

“Wisdom is knowing I am nothing,

Love is knowing I am everything,

and between the two my Life moves.”

– Wayne W. Dyer

As per usual, I stumbled upon this fine quote today while I was working on another post. Lovely words, and the picture I chose was from Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park.

As you ascend the Ridge, you must pass through these clouds. It is actually raining in there. And when you emerge, you find yourself above the clouds feeling Grandfather Sun’s rays warming you as you peer back through the valleys. It appears that you could simply walk across these clouds, as is the nature of Love . . .

Ah Yes, the Blog . . .

By Harold Stearley At Earthwalking

I didn’t really feel the scope much.  It was a tiny tube and there were expert hands guiding it.  The camera transferred the images to a screen in the doctor’s view and to one on the other side of the room where I could watch.

There is always something fascinating about health care, especially when you get objective data.  The pictures on the screen wouldn’t lie . . .

***

Continue reading Ah Yes, the Blog . . .

A Walk About In My Mind

By Harold Stearley At Earthwalking

Who, then, is “animate” and who “inanimate”? Within the assembly of the Lotus, all are present without division. In the case of grass, trees and the soil . . . whether they merely lift their feet or energetically traverse the long path, they will all reach Nirvana.

— Zhanran the Sixth Patriarch of Tendai Buddhism (1711-82)

*****

As I was walking along the creek’s bank, my head was in a swirl.  So much internal noise, while the outside world remained placid.  Utterly calm and quiet.  The only noises came from the trickling, crystal-clear, emerald water.  The hum of seventeen-year cicadas.  The occasional bee, wearing a cloak of pollen and having a belly full of sweet nectar, barely able to carry its own weight on its flight path back to the hive.  And from the trees swaying, or rather dancing, in time with the Chief Western Wind. 

A Black Swallowtail fritters past, in complete silence.  Not a care in the world.

But, oh so much internal clatter.  An orchestra of out-of-tune instruments each playing a different symphony.  Does this tumult of turbulence comprise what we’ve come to call our Consciousness?  Does all of this internal noise make us “Aware?”  And “Aware” of what exactly?

>>>>><<<<< 

Continue reading A Walk About In My Mind