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.
Moving On – The Medicine of the Deer by Harold Stearley
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.
To say it was a slow burn would be inaccurate. It was just plain a bonfire. Sparks to high flying flames. Embers floating upward on newly created thermals, warm and glowing, a continual burn. That was this past summer as I traveled about taking in new sights. Hiking in Nature.
That collective place, that I call the “Real World,” where I feel at home.
There was a crescendo, however. You might say. A peak. Not a turning point, and it wasn’t like things diminished in anyway afterwards, but it was a stand out moment. The day I did the Green Lakes hike.
You see I had been building toward this adventure for a while. Slowing increasing my hiking distances. Acclimating to the higher altitudes. And while the trail markers seemed to indicate a shorter distance, they were wrong. I knew it by what maps revealed and planned accordingly.
This hike, while longer, reminded me of one I did in Montana. To Avalanche Lake. That hike was shorter in distance, but it similarly ended in a spectacular view. A total sense-flooding awe. A take-your-breath-away moment.
This new mission built from the Douglas Fir forest, to the many waterfalls, to the rainbow of wildflowers, to the lakes and surrounding mountains.
I’m sure many of you have engaged in a Fall or Spring cleaning. That thorough cleansing of all that accumulated junk you’ve collected but never seem to have a use for. Or that you’re storing knowing, or at least thinking, that you’ll use that Stuff someday for something.
Well it’s time for a big purge at my residence.
But the purge I’m talking about is not just about physical Stuff, it’s about the mind.
It seems like we all carry burdens. I would say more so in the figurative sense.
We’re generally not literally carrying bundles of things around, or carrying the weight of the world as did Atlas, the mythical Titan.
But we have all of the problems, doubts, fears, imperfections, commitments, obligations, desires, and responsibilities that come with bodily existence. And these “bundles” can be just as weighty as the entire planet, or even more so.
I really like that word. Its main definition is about walking in an unsteady manner, being clumsy, to almost fall, or to make an error. Blunder. But I like the other definition, that of unexpectantly coming upon something – like truth.
I had just finished putting the finishing touches to an article I was writing. Word choice, tempo, spacing. It all felt good. I glanced over at the clock and it was a little past noon. Noon!! Holy crap! How did it get to be noon? The last time I looked at the clock it was around 8:30. What had happened to the time?
I had been totally immersed in my writing. So much so that I don’t even have a memory of the words being formulated in my brain. They had just flowed onto the paper. More like being channeled from an exterior source. Me just being the conduit.
At that moment, I knew that whatever I had gotten down on paper was going to be good. And when I go back and re-read pieces like this, it feels like I’m reading them for the first time.
I call that frame of mind “being in the zone.”
That place where the task is pure task. It’s taken on a life of its own. Independent from my rational machinations. It’s sort of like highway hypnosis. Where you find yourself arriving at your destination but you have no recall of driving the last 20 miles. Somehow you got there. And you managed not to get in an accident. Autopilot.
Being in the zone is something that can’t be forced. I can’t sit down and consciously tell my mind to get into that space in order to produce. It just seems to happen spontaneously. Especially when I don’t try to make it happen.
Another example might be when we consciously try to remember something. Whatever the event or person or detail it is that has momentarily escaped our grasp, if we actively try to recall it, force it into our consciousness, we can’t. But once we stop that forced effort, or have moved onto somethings else, the detail immediately pops into mind.*
I actually used to enjoy my commute to and from work when I was practicing law. Why? Because I let my mind drift during this time. Tuned out. Disengaged from my work. And it was when I disengaged that my mind worked best. Suddenly that legal theory or a key element of what I was needing to complete some analysis just magically appeared. I used to carry a pen and paper, and then later a voice recorder, so I could be sure and get it down. Because if I kept on drifting, that momentary flash would be gone and difficult to recall, once again.
Just what’s going on here? What is this phenomena of the mind? Or is it a state of being?
I remember, without effort :-), when I was a teenager and I first encountered the works of Carlos Castaneda. Castaneda became pretty famous for writing a series of books about time he had supposedly spent in the Sonoran Desert with a Yaqui Indian sorcerer. Castaneda, an anthropologist, had met this gentleman while he was working on his PH.D. and exploring the cultural uses of hallucinogenic plants. He found himself an apprentice to this mystical realm.
Throughout his writings, Castaneda talks about various ways or techniques to “see” the world as it really is. His books were considered pretty controversial and there is some criticism, that may be valid, as to whether Castaneda just made the whole thing up.
Or, it could be arguable that the Yaqui Indian was used as the face or metaphor for presenting Far Eastern philosophy. Whether you want to call this mysticism, or nagualism, or brujoism or anything else, I think there are still some valuable lessons to be learned from these writings.
One of those concepts was that of “not-doing.” As explained by the sorcerer, “doing” is the way we construct the world. So a rock is a rock because of how we apply our knowledge of a rock to the rock – doing. To really see what a rock is, to see its essence, we must observe it without “doing” or by “not-doing.” This may sound a bit obscure or esoteric. And I think the way Castaneda presented it was designed to keep it as such. To retain a mystical quality.
In another way, this is a form of meditation. Of clearing the mind. Ceasing the internal dialog, which has now been coined “self-talk.” And “stopping the World.” You have to see the rock, or more importantly the whole Universe, without all of the blinders and descriptors that have been programed into our heads. And once we learn to stop the World, everything flows and reveals its true nature.
And it’s not just a manner of observing the Universe, it is a way of acting, without intention, as we navigate the Universe.
It was later in my life that I came upon the Tao Te Ching. And again, arguably, Castaneda may very well have stolen this concept from the Tao. Except that the translation of the Tao better describes it.
In the Tao, the term is “Wei Wu Wei” or “doing not-doing.” Other interpretations are “without action” or “without control” or “without effort” or “action without action” or “effortless doing.” Another is “diminishing will.” And the notion is that non-action, or unwillful action, is the purest form of action because the doer has vanished completely into the deed. “. . . the fuel has been completely transformed into flame.”
If one surrenders to the Tao (the Way) they will align in perfect harmony with Nature, with the way things really are. They will have mastered Nature, not conquered it, by becoming one with it.
One of the underlying concepts here is trust. We must trust the intelligence of the Universe, continually acting effortlessly and without conscious will, knowing it will be the right action. “The game plays the game; the poem writes the poem; we can’t tell the dancer from the dance.”
In my case, the story wrote the story.
And when that happens is when I discover that the words truly resonate with other readers. I, or maybe better said, the Universe by channeling though me, has stuck a universal cord. I’d call that magic 🙂 And I know, because I feel it, that many of you experience this same phenomenon and we share a common bond.
To all my blogging friends out there that don’t always know where the words come from, but we feel them in our hearts, I’ll leave you with some more words from the Tao:
Therefore, the Master
acts without doing anything
and teaches without saying anything.
Things arise and she lets them come;
things disappear and she lets them go.
She has but doesn’t possess,
acts but doesn’t expect.
When her work is done, she forgets it.
That is why it lasts forever.
* I’ve read that functional MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) and PET (positron emission tomography) scanning have confirmed that different parts of our brain light up when we try to force memories to the surface. And they’re not the regions in the brain where we store information. We can’t force memories, they just rise on their own 🙂
Photo: The dragonfly represents the power of light. They inhabit two realms of the Universe, water and air, and the stages of their lives are just as dramatic of a transition as that of the butterfly. From a water-dwelling nymph to airborne dragon.
As light strikes their wings at various times of the sun’s circle, they can refract vast differences in color and hue. So like life, things may never quite be the way they appear, but it is still full of beautiful color and light. The dragonfly as a totem is said to help one see through illusions and provide new vision – a good symbol for the concept of not-doing so that one may see the true essence of the Universe.
I took this shot along a lake in Az. I shot different pictures of these same dragonflies throughout the day, and indeed they all look different. I enhanced the color of the feature pic a bit and faded out the background revealing an incredibly vibrant transformation. And here is another shot – same type of Dragonfly, but different angle in the sun. What a difference. Can we see their true essence?
I picked up a fun book tracing a historical perspective on the advancement of medicine, and it naturally included a section about the Hippocratic Oath (400 B.C.). Hippocrates was the ancient Greek physician credited as being the father of Western Medicine. He is famous for dismissing beliefs, more ancient than he was, that advocated the supernatural origin of disease.
The oath, which has frequently been summed up as “first do no harm” is actually quite lengthy. It has been modified multiple times over the centuries and, as it turns out, was not, most probably, written by Hippocrates.
Another irony is that, while Hippocrates disavowed supernatural origins of disease, the original oath translated from Greek, begins by invoking supernatural beings: “I swear by Apollo the Healer, by Asclepius [God of Medicine], by Hygieia [Goddess of health and cleanliness], by Panacea [Goddess of remedies], and by all the gods and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will carry out, according to my ability and judgment, this oath and this indenture.”
The Hippocratic Corpus is a collection of texts associated with Hippocrates’ teachings, only part of which was authored by Hippocrates. And perhaps in another irony, the Paneth Codex, another medical text that was completed long after Hippocrates had passed, contains some of his writings while using depictions of demons as metaphors for disease.
It seems that it was hard for even the most objective early practitioners of medicine to fully eliminate the supernatural from the corners of their medicine cabinets. And maybe for good reason. For the supernatural, once identified and defined, can become quite natural.
So just what is the supernatural and what is natural or normal when it comes to defining illness?
My background and careers are largely based upon science and logical reasoning. Yet, I’m still willing to keep an open mind and recognize that science and human genius can’t always explain things. As most people would attest, we’ve seen or experienced things that simply don’t fit neatly into the boxes and shelves of the “normal.”
To say it differently, I believe in the metaphysical realm. I also believe in mind-body connections and what’s happening in the mind can find ways of manifesting itself in the body.
While I was working at a major research hospital, the doctors and nurses frequently described and linked personality types with specific diseases. And not always in the most positive terms. A more neutral example might be that “Type A” personalities were more likely to have heart attacks than “Type B” personalities.
Which brings me to today’s pondering.
Is every so called “unnatural” or “abnormal” condition truly an “illness?” What’s the interplay between mental and physical illness?” And what if instead of an illness that required treatment, people were really, in some instances, going through an evolution that should be allowed to progress?
And I guess before I dive in too deeply here, I should clarify that I’m not a mental health professional, nor am I a medical doctor. If you’re needing a medical opinion, consult your primary care physician, and if you wish to learn more about mental health from a real professional, check out the site of my blogging friend Dr. Perry.
That disclaimer aside, most illnesses would fall outside the definition of normal and some seem relatively simple to diagnose and identify their causes. Some are genetically related and some follow the pathogen-induced pathway. Sounds simple, you’re born with the genetic makeup that can be expressed as a physical ailment or you encounter a virus or bacterium and you contract a disease.
But many people have “bad genes” or have close encounters with pathogens and they don’t become ill. Why? They are usually said to have healthier immune systems. What makes a healthy immune system? Besides good nutrition and exercise there are plenty of correlations to good mental health, positive thinking, and being happy to having a healthy immune system and healthy body.
The idea of illness originating in the mind, or from a body being out of balance might coincide more with some Eastern medical practices, while germ theory most follows Western medicine. Although I will give Western medicine credit for having researched some things like meditation and meridians and finding scientific bases to support traditional Eastern or more holistic approaches to treatment. And many Western pharmaceutical treatments come directly from old-fashioned herbal remedies from the Shamans of old.
So if one is encountering an illness, or deviation from normal physical or mental health, something not occurring naturally, then, despite Hippocrates’ claims, could there be a “supernatural” cause, and just what would that mean?
The definition of “supernatural” doesn’t only include references to spiritual entities, but it more basically means transcending the laws of nature or being attributable to an invisible agent. So, before the advent of the microscope, a simple bacterium or a virus would not have been visible in the observable universe and an illness caused by such would have been a supernatural occurrence. Consequently, depending on the limits of scientific measurement at any point in time, many causes of diseases could, by simple definition, be supernaturally caused.
And when referring to the supernatural, does it have to be an external source? What about the person’s own spirit? Can’t a damaged soul be expressed as a physical ailment?
Or maybe an enlightened soul is causing a physical evolution?
My daughter sent me an interesting article the other day called, “Shamans Believe Mental Illness Is Something Else Entirely.” The article focused on a West African Shaman of the Dagara people who proposes that some mental ailments, like depression and schizophrenia may actually be a step towards transformation – even meaning the birth of a healer.
The Dagara believe that some of what we in the West call mental illness is really what happens when people encounter, and don’t how to deal with, psychic phenomena and the spiritual world. In their tradition, these individuals are seen as a bridge between physical and spiritual worlds.
This Shaman is said to have taken an 18-year-old suffering from hallucinations and depression back to his village. After 8 months of healing rituals this person was acting quite “normal” and returned to U.S. society to earn a degree in Psychology at Harvard.
While this may be an isolated example, it’s an amazing concept to contemplate. And I’m not saying that such non-traditional approaches would be a panacea for mental health treatments. I’m just saying there is still more unknown than there is known.
Given our acculturation, if we were undergoing a positive physical, mental, or spiritual transition we might very well be totally confused as to what was happening and think we were ill. Our doctors might be unable to come up with a definitive diagnosis and resort to traditional treatments or try to repress the evolution. You might be labeled as being mentally ill, which could, in turn, send you down medical corridors forever obscuring the inner butterfly emerging from the cocoon.
As more advances are made, and as more ways to measure the currently unmeasurable become available, finer distinctions may emerge as to what constitutes good or “normal” health. For the supernatural may be commonplace and just another source for healthy growth and development.
Photo: The book I picked up is titled: “The Medical Book” and it was written by Clifford A. Pickover. This picture is a portion of a photo used in the book and comes from the Paneth Codex, completed in Bologna in 1326 A.D. The book begins in the time frame of 10,000 B.C. moving through medical advances until 2008. Medicine, indeed, has come a long way from bloodletting starting in 1500 B.C., and I believe it still has a long way to go.
I can personally attest to the advances made in the treatment of asthma since the 1960s when many doctors believed that asthma was a mental illness. I had many a scary trip to the emergency room as a child, and when in full respiratory distress was even administered Thorazine, an antipsychotic medication, and knocked unconscious. Oh, the many things we’ve been fortunate enough to survive:-)
Hypocrite: I feel compelled to mention that the word “hypocrite” does not originate from “Hippocrates,” even though it sort of sounds like it does. Hypocrite comes from the Greek word hypokrites, meaning “an actor,” and translating more literally to “an interpreter from underneath” because actors at the time traditionally wore masks. Figuratively, it meant someone who wears a mask to pretend to be someone they are not. In early religious texts, its appears as “ypocrite” referring to those acting like they are morally good to deceive others. Today, of course, we accept the meaning that it’s a person acting contrary to their stated beliefs. In a loose sense, that could apply to Hippocrates – denouncing supernatural causes of disease while swearing to supernatural beings to practice good medicine 🙂
Link Rot Warning: No one can guarantee how long a link on the Net will last. The US Supreme Court got into trouble over this. One of the judges quoted from an Internet site, but after a couple of months the site was no longer there for reference. I also once went to check out a link promoted on our local TV weather channel only to discover it had been hijacked by a porn site – Yikes!
Well, not quite a Haiku’s traditional 5-7-5, but fire is still poetic. Fire is symbolic of so many things. Transformation, purification, life force, power, strength, destruction, rebirth, transcendence, inspiration, enlightenment.
Truth and Knowledge. Light and Heat. The Intellect and the Emotions.
“Baptism by Fire” restores primordial purity. An intermediary between the Source and all of us tiny Particles of Awareness.
Fire is a good visual representation of our emotions. Anger, I believe, is the most destructive – a raging inferno. Passion, the most inspirational, a slow intense burn. Love, a steady light. Life, the precious spark.
The blaze in the feature photo above represents that out-of-control burst of anger. Hatred. The stare of death.
While this image . . .
the steady, passionate burn of the heart. That electric heat, tingle of fire, with the brush of a lover’s hand. A slow, deep delicious kiss.
And there’s another image I truly love, from my background of being a health care provider – The Keeper of the Flame. I found this pin at a military surplus store. I was told it was a German medic’s pin. The hands delicately cradling that life force.
And here’s one, a story for another day, perhaps, of a long ago camping trip in the mountains of Colorado. The howling winds channeling through the mountain pass. Filling our eyes with smoke and ash as we reached for those life-giving flames.
But anger. Yes anger is the most destructive. A fire that can consume us. Destroy us physically and mentally. We might think it’s directed outward, but the amount of negative energy that burns within can kill. An insidious suicide.