I’m at a roadside park just off I-94 overlooking a part of the Badlands called Painted Canyon.
The sun is setting to my left. It highlights the layered colors of the sprawling valley below me in intense blues, fiery reds, bruised purpled, living greens and a hundred shades of grey and brown.
The clouds are lit from within on a background that slowly shifts from pale blue to a deep violet capturing all the colors of my imagination.
Just past the edge of this vantage is an ancient juniper with dark berries. Balancing on the edge of its sparse limbs a meadowlark sings. In the distance a red tailed hawk circles.
At my feet are perfect yellow flowers that iridescent green bees suckle at. Ants clamber in the deep grass, carrying supplies to stock their underground metropolis.
A child’s balloon floats by me. A red island drifting on a cool breeze. Dancing with the invisible.
In the distance a child cries. Another laughs. The incessant sounds of man, the murmuring chatterous monotony of high and low and hushed and shouted tones and nearby traffic and all their smells, sweet and masked and dirty, are all broken, drowned in a profound silence that has no name.
Standing at the fence that keeps humanity at bay, separate from the world we were born into, is a young couple, giddy with love, arms wrapped around each other, smiling, content, joyous. Their love shines so brightly that it adds to the glow of the setting sun. A stranger takes their picture, hands the camera back to them with a “You’re welcome” and with no more than a quick glance into eternity and a shrug, walks quickly back to their car. They have someplace to be. An itinerary. A plan. They will miss so much. Too much.
I take in the sight and am filled with a deep peace, with the miracle of this moment. It is captured within me and I am captured within it and it lives forever.
Not in the past. Not as a memory, now, because Now is all that ever exists.
If I listen carefully
To the stories
Of those around me
To the words of the song
Playing on the radio
Or in my head
To the consequences
Of my actions
and of those I know
Or witness strangers
If I breathe deep and slow
and observe the thoughts
That play over and over
Like a familiar melody
and admit the song
Of my soul
Into my mind
I can hear the Divine
I don’t always know what She wants
or needs from me
I don’t always understand Her words
but She always speaks
and Her message
is always one of love
One of the most desirable, and often most difficult to achieve, meditative states is that of Nothingness. It is not a state of loss of Self as the word implies but of merging with All. In joining the All we are able to experience the same egoless state of infancy where we are One with our surroundings. It is a state of consciousness where there is no division between my Self and the zafu I sit upon or the air I breathe or the light from a candle that burns or the smoke from the incense that drifts across the room.
In my spiritual wandering I have come across a number of methods to achieve this state. Methods that range from inducing trance to consuming large quantities of psilicybin to strict ritual. Most of them failed or were so hard on my body and mind that they were not worth reproducing. As a Spiritual Warrior I am determined to keep pushing forward in my search for personal truths, those things that improve my life, no matter how many setbacks or pitfalls I encounter. As a result I developed my own method of reaching this state of consciousness.
The process is not difficult though it can take some time to master. For me, it has been well worth the effort. The benefits are numerous; a sense of peace and calm that I carry with me, an understanding of and a desire to live by the intentions of love and gratitude, respect for others and our world, an appreciation of all that life offers, even it’s suffering.
We can never achieve that same perfect state of egolessness we were born into simply because we have a lifetime of experience that conflicts with it. Memories that clearly prove we are separate even if what those memories tell us is false. But we can get close.
1. Get in the zone.
Flow State is that frame of mind where one is fully immersed in an action with a feeling of energized focus. While I primarily use sitting meditation to achieve this state there are literally thousands of ways to get there. Select one that suits you whether it be meditation or prayer or trance inducing dance or running or stamp booking. Anything that gets you in the zone, that place where we allow ourselves to set aside the problems of the day and focus only on the task without thinking about it. It is quite impossible to achieve this first part if you are worried about what might happen tomorrow or the bills in the mail or the jackass that cut you off in traffic. So give yourself permission to set them aside. They’ll still be there when you are done.
This step requires intentional dissociation. If you are running, imagine seeing yourself as if from above. From the trees. A bird. The sky. If you are praying gently close your eyes and see yourself wherever you are as if standing outside yourself. As a stranger viewing your prayers in curiosity. If meditating see yourself as if you are standing in front of yourself. Whatever it is you are doing pick a person or a place or a thing and see yourself as if that thing.
It is important to accept that what you are seeing is real. That you really do see yourself from the trees or the sky or the stranger. It is surprisingly easy to visualize yourself, we do it all the time. We see ourselves failing at something. Missing the great parking spot. Not getting the raise. And we are not at all surprised when those things happen. The lesson we can take from those experiences is that we actually manifest what we believe to some degree. Apply that lesson here. See yourself. Believe it.
Allow that field of vision to expand and extend, to encompass everything around you a little at a time. Not just one tree but every tree in view. Let in sounds, smells, textures. Feel the sway of the tree in the breeze, the squirrel scrambling in your limbs, the warm moist earth on your roots, the nourishing sun on your leaves or the warmth of the lightbulb on the paint of your ceiling. The mind is an amazing thing. It really is capable of this. Soon you will have difficulty separating yourself from your environment.
With regular practice you will literally be able to see yourself in these positions, doing these things. It can be a little uncomfortable at first but it will also be familiar, and soon you will lose some sense of yourself. You will see with a thousand eyes. With one eye. You will become Nothing and in that nothingness you will experience All.
I’m not saying it’s easy and you certainly wouldn’t want to live like this all the time. We really do need to retain our sense of self in our everyday routines. But to feel the restraints of this physical life be released is true freedom. It is the egoless form of the infant recaptured by the mature mind. A mind that can appreciate the experience and apply it to living.
Image by Studio Canal from the movie “Under the Skin” which has nothing whatsoever to do with the article….. I just liked the image 🙂
that undefinable thing
we all feel
but can’t really touch
since it slips through our fingers
and escapes even the tightest grasp
though it can carry a kiss for thousands of miles
and the flavors of the world with it
both to land on our lips
though it sings with the limbs of the tree
that sway in union with its ebb and flow
or even feel
though we feel its weight
and pressure as it pushes us down the street
or vacuum as it pulls on our clothes and hair
yet it spins the colorful blades
of the pinwheel we carried as children
the one we blew on with thrill
as it resounded with our breath
and distorted the sounds we would make
like playing cards
clipped to the frames of our bikes
that clacked in the spokes
of its wheels
to help us imagine
we could ride just fast enough
to catch it
put it in a jar
and release it like a tiny whirlwind
to turn the pinwheel
that still swirls in my mind
and with each rotation
I learn a little more
from the spiraling trail
that blends the colors
of its seemingly
into a dance of light
and the flutter it makes
like the wings of a chaos butterfly
that, with just the tiniest influence,
creates a storm with each turn.
With each flutter.
With each spin.
The beautiful dance continues.
It is a dance between us and nature.
When we are born we discover the most amazing things: the world develops before our very eyes and as we grow it expands as if we, ourselves, are the gods that create it moment by moment.
In our teens we discover complex emotions that threaten our very existence: rage, pain, immense joy and sadness, and, for the very first time, even though we may not recognize it for what it is, Love.
We go through school being taught pointless rhetoric: math, science, history. All the while being taught none of those things that could lead us to deeper paths; mindfulness, loving kindness, compassion. Those are supposed to be taught by our parents. Parents who never learned those things either.
Learn them. They will lead you farther than you imagine.
Later still, we discover that we wished we had learned more of those worthless ideas. Paid closer attention. What was that formula for finding the volume of a circle again? That will come in handy later. I promise you that. So pay attention if you can. But there’s more.
We discover the value of money. Of friendship and of hard work and of possession. We go into the world discovering fine food, good company, bright lights.
Too often people don’t make it past those last discoveries. They base their lives on the hedonistic values of life: a big house, a nice car, good clothes, physical pleasure. Discovery ends. Life has been explored and all that it offers has been found.
Those discoveries become empty. Meaningless. Superficial. Life becomes meaningless. Emotions become an intolerable consequence. A side effect of life.
If we are insightful, or have a fortunate predilection for it, or have a loved one willing to force our awareness, or we are just plain lucky, or unlucky, we push deeper. Struggle harder to find meaning.
Our path of discovery narrows to two distinct paths: inward or outward.
The outward path leads us to medical discovery. To miracle cures. To pills that end our suffering. To gurus and healers and shaman. The path can branch over and over from here but it always leads us to the discovery of the inward path though very very few can make that transition.
If you find yourself at that transitional fork in your path I hope, I truly hope, you find your way to the inward path. Reach into that place and you will find a hand willing to lead you farther than you ever imagined. I promise you that.
The inward path leads us to ever deeper discovery: understanding, self love, honesty, acceptance, awareness, unity, Love. True Love.
Discoveries that lead us to higher planes of existence. Planes where loss and suffering are accepted as simply a part of life and where the value of a single breath, drawn long and slow while listening to and feeling the beat of our own miraculous heart connect us to the very soul of the Universe, is beyond measure.
What we discover there can never be fully expressed in words but in that place are experiences outside the realm of comprehension and yet understood as if we were once again children creating, moment by moment, the very fabric of our own distinct, yet combined, reality.
My wish for you is this:
Continue your journey. Never cease in your struggle of discovery, because even further beyond that point lay infinity: a point of chaotic generation and regeneration of life where the distance between infancy and eons are but fractions of moments of the life of a single drop of moisture on a spiders web and all that we have discovered between birth and true life, the life that always awaits, that bekons and welcomes all, are a single reflection on the surface of that dew that shimmers a while before dropping into an endless ocean that rises as mist to condense on the web over and over again.
In that chaos of constant re-creation resides the Divine where She rests on this, the Seventh Day, with arms wide and welcome, to bring us into Her embrace.
It is a place of constant discovery and awe and wonder where a word as simple and complex as “Love” or “Gratitude” can define our very existence.
Though I tend to speak of it in terms of enlightenment and higher planes of consciousness it is not some mythical place reached only through lifetimes of deep meditation and study. It does not require the use of psychoactive compounds or healers or teachers.
Here at the edge of the world, where men reach into the the sea with heavy line and glittering tackle attempting to join the massive Oneness of the ocean by removing from it those that truly belong, I find a sure and sudden calm as if sedated yet awake and aware. Fully aware.
I have spent so little time in my life by the ocean though I have always heard its call. A gentle tugging. It is the lure, I am the fish, and it is trying as hard to be a part of me as those men standing on the edge of this expansive pier are trying to be part of it.
In 1917 Rudlof Otto wrote Das Heilge, which appeared in English in 1923 as The Idea of the Holy. He suggests that while the concept of “the Holy” is often used to convey moral perfection It also contains another distinct element, beyond the ethical sphere, for which he uses the term “Numinous” and defines it as “non-rational, non-sensory experience or the feeling whose primary and immediate object is outside the self.” (Thank you Wikipedia)
I won’t go into the whole Jungian psychology surrounding the archetypes and Numinous because I believe I can sum it up in this one example: An artist creates a sculpture to give form to something that has taken life inside him. What he feels is Numinous, the influence of something “other” than himself. Years later I see his sculpture and literally feel the spirit he has put into the stone looking back at me.
This is the Numinous Experience.
I look into the ocean, this beautiful and powerful creation of the Divine, and see it looking back at me. Calling me. Reaching into me and igniting a spirit within me which I release onto the page of this blog where it lives and, hopefully, reaches into you and ignites the “other” that lives within you.
Life is truly a spiritual experience if we allow it to be.
Image by JMGreff at the end of the Gulf State Park Pier in Gulf Shores, AL
I’m pretty sure no one ever thought of Petty as philosophical or scientific but…
… I’m listening to him sing about a freeway running through his yard as I sip a cup of once hot coffee now going cold and think about that freeway.
It is Life and it is constantly moving at millions of miles per second through the cosmos with no particular destination. It just is.
The yard is my life. A tiny pasture that interacts with the much larger, empirical, Life. It would be easy to think that my tiny corner of Life could not have any impact whatsoever on that mass of energy. It can feel like being a single molecule of water in an ocean and, in a way, it is exactly like that but it is also more than that.
Here comes a quick geology lesson:
Epigenisis is an accumulation of a mineral mass without loess properties, perhaps with a high silt and lime content, which under weathering and soil formation acquires loess properties and is transformed into loess (seriously, I swiped that from some geology site).
Eolian: the winds ability to shape the surface of the earth.
Loess: silt-sized sediment that is formed by the accumulation of wind-blown dust.
Syngenesis: the accumulation of a mineral mass that is mainly of eolian origin and the acquisition of all loess properties occurs simultaneously, under the influence of soil formation (also swiped because I have no memory for such things).
So what the hell does any of this have to do with Tom Petty? Well, nothing. He just got me to thinking. Free falling, so to speak.
Here’s where I landed: Life’s affect is eolian. That is to say that we are often blasted by it. It throws us this way and that. It wears us down until we are like loess. Tiny silt-sized sediment. Infinitesimal in that ocean.
But we are in syngenesis with that energy. You and I and my dog and the chair I sit on and the trees outside my window and the coffee I drink and the keyboard I type on… all flow in that river of Life. All part of it. One with it. The ocean simply can not exist without all the separate molecules of water. You. Me. The attendant at the gas station. The grass. The air in our lungs and the dust on the street which accumulates and coalesces and one day becomes the stone and soil upon which we walk.
My little yard, that tiny pasture in the great green field that is the Universe, is also the Universe itself. It exists because we exist. We exist because it exists. It is us and we are it.