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.
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.
It returns one to No Limits.
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.”
* 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 #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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 . . .
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?
Colors blind the eye. Sounds deafen the ear. Flavors numb the taste. Thoughts weaken the mind. Desires wither the heart.
The Master observes the world but trusts his inner vision. He allows things to come and go. His heart is open as the sky.
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 12
Traveling North, threading my way midway between the paved-over urban communities and the many Woodlands, I was about to make a right turn, East. To a land that can only be described as Magical.
The terrain changed from golden rolling hills and densely planted fields to Forests.
The roads shifted from their North-South Axis into the Serpentine. Slithering along in ever-repeating S-shaped fractals, undulating upward and downward as the terrain became more and more mountainous.
It’s hard to paint of picture of how the coniferous forest just popped up from nowhere. But there you were, facing Incense Cedar, Sierra Juniper, Pine, Hemlock, Fir, and Yew.
Intermixed with these cone-bearing, needled-leaved Souls stood Birch, Alder, Dogwood, Laurel, Maple, Oak, Poplar, Black Cottonwood, Willow and the Quaking Aspen. A thriving, diverse Universe that puts us humans in our tiny place.
A bit of perspective on just how small we all really are.
And as I climbed in elevation on those roads without shoulders or guardrails, looking into those endless valleys, the Northern landscape suddenly turned black and barren. The result of a wildfire having scoured a portion of the gorge-lands. Bleak and ever so reminding of how acting recklessly with Coyote’s stolen gift from the Gods could devastate such an expanse of habitat for all of the many Medicines of the Forest.
But rebirth was beginning to reclaim all that was lost. Being born from the ashes. As we can be in our own lifetimes, if we’d only set fire to all that unnecessarily burdens us. Artificially self-generated and perpetuated boulders and boundaries that can be cast aside, returned to the ash-pile, freeing our Minds. Our Bodies. Our Souls. And if you can’t do that consciously on your own intention just drive through that “Tunnel.” “Wawona Tunnel.”
A corridor to another space and time.
And when you emerge, it takes your breath away. Completely. And you no longer need oxygen to sustain you.
The “Valley.” Yosemite in all its grandeur.
Sure, you’ve seen pictures, even my own with this post. But the first-hand experience is totally different. Hypnotizing. Intoxicating.
Touching, tasting, hearing, smelling – you can feel it in every pore all at once. Like a simultaneous explosion of awe and love. Sight is something altogether different when our senses are flooded with such vastness. Such majesty.
A place where you can hear Colors. Taste the Air. Bathe in distant Waterfalls. Trace, by touch, the oblique and climbing Mountain Slopes. Traverse the expansive Woodlands through your Mind’s Eye. Speak, without sound, to the Bear and share in its introspection.
A cross-threading of neural pathways. Electrifying every cell in your Brain.
And all while standing still. In silence.
If there was anything that could convey the underlying transcendent Unity of all Truths, that Perennial Philosophy, the Quintessence of all Spirituality, it is Yosemite.
“Ahwahnee,” or “Mouth,” as it was called by the mixed renegade members from the Southern Miwok and Paiute Tribes because the Valley Walls appeared to be an open Bear’s mouth. They called themselves the “Ahwahnechee,” or dwellers of Ahwahnee.
“Yohhe’meti,” as known to the Central Miwok Tribe, translates to “Those who Kill,” and referred to the Yosemite People, the Ahwahnechee, who were greatly feared by the surrounding tribes.
Ultimately, as a result of mistranslations of Yohhe’meti and the phonetically similar Miwok word “Uzumate” meaning Grizzly Bear, the U.S. Military named the valley “Yosemite” – “Grizzly Bear.”
And before I leave word translation, I should mention that the word “Wawona,” that is borne by that tunnel, came from the Miwok Tribe’s word “Who-Who’nau.” Which refers to the hoot of the Owl. Considered to be the Guardian Spirit of the Giant Sequoia Trees. A Spirit I’m very familiar with.
It was here, in the former land of the Grizzly, that I’d embark on a few “jaunts.”* My base would be a tent awaiting for me on the Valley Floor.
Now the word “jaunt” implies ease, and it was easy making the drive to Glacier Point. Looking out over or down from this vantage point, one can see Yosemite Falls, Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls, Half Dome and another dozen or more major rock formations.
It looked as though you could simply reach out and touch those waterfalls. Feel those cold, clear waters between your fingers. The distances miniaturized in the expansive landscape view. But the hikes up to those falls, would not be a mere “jaunt.”
In fact, while the hike up to the top of Yosemite Falls was on switch backs, it’s essentially straight up. One of the hardest three and a half miles I ever trekked with a total elevation gain of 3900 feet.
I guess I was sandwiched in the middle of the hikers that day. Between a mixed-aged group leaving me in their dust, and groups of “youngsters” in their 20s and 30s who were in my dust. Seeing the pain in their faces, and hearing their labored breathing when taking breaks, many wisely turned back.
Look, and it can’t be seen. Listen, and it can’t be heard. Reach, and it can’t be grasped.
Above, it isn’t bright. Below, it isn’t dark. Seamless, unnamable, it returns to the realm of nothing. Form that includes all forms, image without an image, subtle, beyond all conception.
Approach it and there is no beginning; follow it and there is no end. You can’t know it, but you can be it, at ease in your own life. Just realize where you come from; this is the essence of wisdom.
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 14
Each day in this wonderland, I was visited by my brothers and sisters Deer, a never ceasing reminder of the Medicine of Gentleness that I was receiving throughout my days on the road. One morning, five juvenile bucks took their time crossing the road in front of me, by a pedestrian crosswalk no less, giving me ample time to enjoy their company.
The number five, in numerology, represents being versatile and actively awaiting change. And, indeed, change was manifesting. A change in myself and my direction.
It wouldn’t be long before this group disbanded, the males all seeking solitude intermixed with brief encounters with the matriarchal doe clans. I too was seeking solitude, and it can be found even if standing among a million faces.
Adding to the Deer’s Medicine of Gentleness was the Medicine of Introspection I previously mentioned. I saw its representatives here during my hikes – two Black Bears. They had obviously been out from their hibernation for some time and had duly brought their weight class back up from Winter’s rest. If you want to feel the insignificance of your own power, get close to a bear.
I embarked upon a new adventure daily, and my first major hike was to climb up to the top of Vernal Falls and then on to Nevada Falls. I got off to an early start, but found myself rapidly enveloped in a sea of people.
Yet the further we climbed, as with all of my hikes here, the less people made the journey. But there were some that were prepared to travel even further. Past Nevada Falls to make the hike up Half Dome, an adventure I wasn’t physically prepared to take on this trip.
Now I’m not sure if my words can convey the majesty of the views there, but looking down into the Valley from on top of these falls was simply incredible. Water, one of the four major elementals that gives rise to all life, was truly in its raw form. Not hampered by human interference, these rushing waters continued to carve that Valley, much like the glaciers of ancient times.
Nothing in the world is as soft and yielding as water. Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible, nothing can surpass it.
The soft overcomes the hard; the gentle overcomes the rigid. Everyone knows this is true, but few can put it into practice.
Therefore, the Master remains serene in the midst of sorrow. Evil cannot enter his heart. Because he has given up helping, he is people’s greatest help.
True words seem paradoxical.
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 78
There’s something very satisfying about making a high climb and then looking down. An exhilaration which might explain the addiction I have to such activities. This exhilaration is also contagious, spreading to all around and feeding into an even greater high for everyone “present.”
Present in Awareness.
Once I passed Vernal Falls and reached the top of Nevada Falls, I violated one of my steadfast rules. I always spot a turn-around point. A place on the trail where my gut tells me is unsafe to cross. I usually detect some sort of sign marking that point. It could be a Butterfly, or a falling leaf, or just a shadow, or movement in my peripheral vision. But there is always a clear line of demarcation in my mind where I just know it’s time to stop.
As I prepared to do just that, stop and turn around, I decided to take a just a few more steps on the trail that leads up to Half Dome. A huge mistake on my part as I tripped on a rock concealed by loose dirt and fell.
I shifted to my left to avoid my right shoulder instinctively because of rotator cuff tears and landed square on my left side. On all of my previous injuries from my fall in the Canyon.
But if there is one thing positive to be said about pain, it’s that it forces you into the here and now. It brings you into the realm of immediate experience and pulls you out of the dream state of mind.**
It was during my descent that I met some real hikers, much younger men carrying 60-pound packs. They had stayed in the Wilderness for 4 days and hiked some 70 miles in the Sierras. My hike that day was ten miles with my 14 pound day-pack, and that was sufficient for me.
There was, however, something of import that I did begin to feel on these ten miles. Perhaps more significant than what those other hikers experienced. I’m not sure if it was in the way I walked. The spring in my step. My bountiful strides. The way I held my head up. Smiled more. Greeted everyone with the shining in my eyes.
Or was it simply the Wondrous Souls I was meeting along the way.
Whatever it was radiating off of me, the people I was meeting were all receptive — looking and responding to me differently than others had in years past. I felt a glimmering kind of kindness. Of appreciation. Of Love. Love of others and love of self. Love of Nature and all that surrounded us.
Being on the road, on the trail, seems to be, for me at least, what brings out that shine. And I was rebounding from some years of trauma in both my personal and career lives. This constant motion in Nature was the Medicine. And I was receiving just the dose I needed.
I was healing, but it was a different kind of healing. It was a healing of the Soul. And I believe that when our Souls are whole, we radiate unconditional love. And unconditional love, from any source is an all powerful healer of any ailment.
Needing a more restful day before tackling Yosemite Falls, I headed North to Luken Lake,
and Tuolumne Meadows.
Such contrasting landscapes make you feel as if you are constantly being transported to different worlds.
I spent my early mornings and my evenings along the Merced River. A perfect place for peaceful meditation.
And when the day came to ascend Yosemite Falls, I felt prepared for the inner battle that would take place. The fight to maintain stamina. To use will power when physical strength began to fail. And I would need it.***
The views on the hike up were amazing.
And they keep getting better as you reach the top to see Yosemite Creek, where it takes its mammoth 2,425 foot plunge to the Valley below.
There are signs at the top of the Falls to remind people to stay away from the edge as there are “No Second Chances.” Actually, this is not a bad statement to keep in mind as we face each day.
We can never reclaim the time that’s passed.
Being a wordsmith, I didn’t really expect that I would run out of words to describe this place of healing, and there is just too much to relay with words, or in a single blog post, so I will leave you with a few more pics . . .
“As the soft yield of water cleaves obstinate stone, so to yield with life solves the insolvable.
To yield, I have learned, is to come back again.”
-Lao Tzu Chapter 43
All my words and pics are copyrighted and cannot be used in any manner without express permission of the author – Me 🙂
Quotes: All quotes from Lao Tzu and his Tao Te Ching came from the Stephen Mitchell translation of the Tao.
Photos: All of my photos are captioned with the exception of the feature photo – that being an old bridge over the Merced River. And the final pic, which is of Vernal Falls.
The imagery and metaphors associated with “Bridges” and “Falls” are just too numerous to list, so have a little fun with your imagination and think about how those analogies and metaphors fit into this story or perhaps your story. 🙂
* The reason I say the former land of the Grizzly, is that Grizzly bears were totally eradicated from California by 1924. When the European Alien Immigrants arrived it was estimated that 10,000 Grizzlies occupied the territory that came to be present day California. It didn’t take long for them to murder them all. See The California Grizzly .
** My Previous injuries from the Canyon. For those of you who missed some previous posts of mine, I took a little spill down some unforgiving rocks while in the Grand Canyon before I arrived at Yosemite. In short, the worst of it was five cracked or severely-bruised left ribs. When I left Yosemite, I had the opportunity to go swimming and when I tried to swim underwater my rib cage would start collapsing from the pressure. It took a few months to totally heal, but I couldn’t let that stop me from enjoying new adventures. 🙂
*** Stamina is the Medicine of the Elk, something that I plan to address more in a future post.
I was unlacing my boots at the end of a long day. As I zig-zagged the laces in reverse to free them from their hooks down towards my ankles, I could feel the heat escaping, the pressure lifting.
Loosening the remaining half of the laces that extended through the half dozen grommets to the boot’s toe, I then lifted them, one at a time, off my feet and let them drop to the floor with an oh-so familiar thud.
My right ankle throbbed.
Ten hours on the road wasn’t that bad because I love being in motion, but I was in Bear country now. Absolutely everything had to be emptied out of my car and carried to my room. And I had packed for four months. More than I needed on a daily basis, but I was prepared. As were the Bears.
Bears are smart.
They’ll tear up a car trying to get to a cooler, even if it’s empty. Nothing that emits an odor can be left behind. Leave a tube of sunscreen in the glove compartment and you’ll awaken to one ugly mess of an automobile.
Yesterday’s post, which briefly touched on the symbolism of the Tower of Babylon, got me to thinking more about how humans seem to like to convey human attributes onto the Gods they believe govern their existence in the physical plain and the afterlife. (This statement, of course, presumes there is both a limited physical and eternal Spiritual existence for us.) And, this train of thought led me down the path of pondering just what are emotions, what are thoughts, and what is consciousness???
Three questions get three question marks. 😊
To add to this thought-wave pulsing through my brain, I remembered a response I received to a post I made on another social media platform recently. The post was this well-known quote:
“Holding onto anger is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.” – Author Unknown
The response I received was something along this line. Anger is an emotion given to us by God, and therefore, it is supposed to be experienced and is not detrimental. That’s my summation of the response anyway, and I may have actually given it more meaning than what the author intended, but that’s the way my brain interpreted it. I can happily extrapolate further if you like by placing it in the context of current world events.
Ok, maybe not. 😊
Now, I’ve heard many other claims of things or feelings or “rights” that are supposedly “God-given,” such as for possessing guns, but this comment on anger was a new spin for me.
BTW, I really don’t think an omnipotent being thought up the idea of a right to gun ownership that then spontaneously worked its way into the American Constitution. That type of “law” is man-made, as is the weapon itself. But I digress . . .
What this is all about, of course, is anthropomorphism.
We are bestowing human characteristics upon other members of the animal kingdom or upon Gods or even upon other objects – animate or inanimate. As a literary device, anthropomorphism may make sense because we usually need some descriptive or comparative form in order to carry on a conversion about some things – to visualize them. It’s also fun.
But utilizing projections and metaphors and analogies is not necessarily the same, nor could it be, as capturing a clear, unfiltered, objective, tangible observation of something in space-time reality. I mean really, why would an all-powerful being be a slave to human infirmities, passions, and prejudices?
I guess that makes four questions. 😊
Now those of us who are not science-deniers, and who have even marginally read about the magnificent machine the human body is, know that a great deal, if not all, of the functions of the body are chemical-electrical in Nature. If you prefer big words, these functions are neuroanatomical, neurochemical, neuralhormonal, and neurophysiological.
There is no dispute that messages in the brain are tossed about by electrically charged neurons, and as these messages jump from gap to gap between neurons an electromagnetic filed is created around those neurons holding the same information that is being transmitted. This has been confirmed by electroencephalograms (EEGs) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) and has served as the basis for the theory of “CEMI” – the Conscious Electromagnetic Information Field.
Neuroscientists argue over what this exactly means in terms of consciousness. And I got to tell you that reading through the scientific journals and news reports, this is some pretty tough shit to conceptualize. But I’ll try to summarize this in a way we can understand it.
Traditionally, philosophers have argued that there is a mind-body dualism. This philosophy is a step beyond materialism as it implies consciousness is occurring beyond the physical realm. Free will is supposed to fit in here somewhere, although there are still debates as whether the mind and spirit are different, or the same, or if the entire “mind” concept should be discarded as being superfluous to a body-spirit duality.
Classic scientists advocate their own monotheism that consciousness is generated by the physical brain itself and its network of billions of neurons. This is not to say automatically that they disbelieve in the Spirit, but rather that consciousness is distinguished from Spirit.
But the neurobiological dualistic theory being advanced most recently is that we have physical matter, our brain, and electromagnetic fields (EMFs) that compose our consciousness. In other words, the difference in the dualistic theories of the philosophers and the neurobiologists is the distinction between matter and spirit versus matter and energy.
Physically speaking, our brains have some “5 million organically-formed magnetite crystals per gram;” each with a north and south pole, “serving as in/out information channels, the basis for awareness,” forming a complex network to broadcast information at “a fraction of the speed of light, unifying conscious experience.” Whereas the monistic physical model argues integrated information is physical, the dualistic model argues:
“ . . . that nearly all examples of so-called ‘integrated information’, including neuronal information processing and conventional computing, are only temporally integrated in the sense that outputs are correlated with multiple inputs: the information integration is implemented in time, rather than space, and thereby cannot correspond to physically integrated information. . . .
. . .only energy fields are capable of integrating information in space.”
Ok then, if we can wrap our heads around this so-called measurable scientific standard, we not only have to contend with the concept of consciousness not being integrated in physical structures or physical space, but also with the concepts of sentience, awareness and emotion. All of which can be considered part and parcel of consciousness.
Maybe we just have too many words here trying to describe the same thing. One could simply argue that the EMFs created in, or associated with, our brain are the equivalent of what many refer to as the Spirit.
Energy fields, like Spirits, flow through space and are not bound to physical structures or to time.
Now, sentience is defined as “the capacity to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively” and is distinguished from thought. Awareness is having “knowledge and understanding that something is happening or exists.” And, emotion is defined as “a conscious mental reaction (such as anger or fear) subjectively experienced as a strong feeling usually directed toward a specific object and typically accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes in the body.”
If the existence of EMFs equals consciousness, and consciousness embodies thoughts, sentience, awareness and emotion, then Mother Earth, with its magnetic field, is indeed a sentient living entity. As are rocks, plants, and all other forms of life on the planet for that matter. Maybe we just haven’t learned how to fully measure consciousness in other entities or bridged the communication gap.
Ponder that for a bit . . .
That’s why I personally find Naturalistically-oriented Spiritual beliefs, such as the ones that First Nations Peoples have adopted, to make so much sense. Everything is part and parcel of the Source. “All My Relations” are alive and deserve my recognition and respect.
If we accept that energy fields compose our consciousness, and then add a bit of deductive reasoning, this may very well answer other questions for us and give us a scientific basis for understanding such things as extrasensory perception, telepathic communication, and even how artificial intelligence can transfer to sentience.
Think of the future of robots.
And we should also think of the consequences and effects on our own consciousness that creations of ours that emit EMFs may have. They could be enhancing or very, very destructive.
So, perhaps this is a scientific quantification of Spirit of sorts. Science and Religion have always been compatible, so I’m unsure why some try to differentiate them.
But, getting back to “anger” for a second. I still believe this powerful emotion is detrimental to us both physically and mentally. And if you wish to believe it is God-given, then perhaps the Source gives us this emotion as a challenge to discipline our brains and for controlling our thoughts. After all, traditional dogma tells us that the Source challenges us in many ways to develop and live a spiritual existence free from judgment and the inferior human emotions.
And no matter how much some people might wish their God was as racist and bigoted and judgmental as they are, I don’t think Gods work that way. 😊
Photo: This is an actual image of my brain from an MRI I had. I darkened it a bit so you could see the contrast better of my blood vessels being lit up by the contrast die. Not to many abnormalities present – LOL! I used this image in a bit of prose of mine titled “Neural Roadmaps Revisited.”
Interesting enough, my very first on my blog was titled, “Consciousness.”
Disclaimer: I do not profess to be an expert in such matters as neurobiology, or theology for that matter. I am, however, reasonably educated and enjoy pondering complex questions about the nature of our existence. :-0 I am also open to any other insights or perspectives anyone else may have.
Remember also: the first law of thermodynamics, energy is neither created or destroyed, it merely changes form – thus, it’s eternal in Nature.
We’re already nine days into the new year and I realize I haven’t posted anything yet. True, things have been busy. Crazy busy. But that’s no excuse. After all, my mind is constantly churning out thoughts I seem to have no control over.
Spewing and spewing more words, phrases, ideas, and concepts than I can wrap my head around. Nonstop. Mass internal confusion. The collision of thoughts like sub-atomic particles ricocheting around in a super collider.
Condensation trails in a cloud chamber.
It’s no wonder it’s tough to think and write cohesively.
What is that voice in our heads constantly telling us how the world is? And I don’t mean that voice from the subconscious that warns us when we need it most – that’s our gut talking. That’s intuition. That’s something entirely different.