On a recent evening, after a long day of work up the mountain, I stopped along my commute back down and hiked down along Glen Falls. I found a perfect spot on a perfect boulder by the mouth of a lower stretch of the falls, watched over by a lone newt.
The depression in the boulder fit my body perfectly, exactly in the way I needed to bend and stretch to relieve my stiff neck and stretch my trunk. My connection to nature, as often happens, deepened once again to my core of being. And so on my way back up the trail I was inspired anew. On that boulder I was breathed. I sank deeper into the stone, merging with it, and I felt its breath through my being. On the way down the trail, I had stopped many times to greet formidable trees. Ancient, knobby Black Gum, Grandmother Hemlock, Great Pine, curvy Chestnut Oak, Maple... thanking them along the way, loving them.
In recent times I have occasionally felt that I have fallen out of grace with myself and in this way, too, come to feel out of grace with the world. There are many reasons for this, but those don't matter. Always, again, I return to nature. Always, again, nature returns to me. Always, again, I find in nature my nature, which can never be lost. And so I am reminded and I receive, once again, from the woods and waters an invitation.
(Blessing in progress)
May your every footfall
be a blessing unto the Earth.
May you recognize the love
that comes in every form you meet.
May each breath inspire your heart
with the fullness of receiving.
May your softening glance be answered
by growing astonishment deep in your brain.
May your every word
fall with kindness into a ready world.
May your ears extend to meet
the quietest birdsong and whispers in the wind.
May you rest upon the earth
with featherlike ease.
May melodious crickets and tree frogs
sing you to sleep even under noise of traffic and barking dogs.
...to be continued.
Along the trail back up to continue my commute home, I was inspired to a new practice, which now in retrospect seems utterly obvious to me as a natural extension of much of the work I have been doing. It also feels like it might be an aspect of my Dharma, if I understand this concept appropriately.
I began to even more consciously and slowly bless the Earth with my feet. Each step a slow and deliberate sweet meeting with the Mother of us all. A deep connection of love and gratitude. A welcoming in both directions. Grounding myself to the earth, kissing her with my soul via my feet. Anchoring whatever I bring down through the vessel that I am in whatever capacity I have to hold Spirit in a sacred way.
I have said casually many times over recent years that I often consider that I might just leave stuff behind and walk the planet. I have always meant it, but in the way of stating "someday" things. Once I came to this practice, however, it seems so right, especially as these last couple of years I have shed my shoes to better meet the earth and expand this connection.
Of course it would be my practice.
In the weeks since I had this inspiration and have been making it a practice, I have experienced a deepening of the gentle connection I feel as I walk in the woods, along the river. I even feel it as I bring the practice into the car with me and imagine that I am still walking and blessing as I drive the mountain roads.
As I walked back up that trail, that day, I also had the feeling that I was laying trails for other selves. That coming and going throughout time, there are so very many "me's" and that I am establishing paths for my other selves to follow. And this makes it more profoundly sacred to me and at the same time mundane. Of course I am doing this throughout time and space. Surely I am led to this practice by the footprints of other "me's" over time-space. And of course if I make it important and give my larger self to it, it is bigger and wider and resounds or ripples out through time-space.
Just as importantly, it brings me unerringly into the moment at hand, in communion with all the trees, plants, waters and creatures around me; in clearer touch with all the elements - the sun's warmth on my skin, the gentle breeze dancing in my hair, the feint birdsong, the floating petals, the bee just buzzed past my ear, the coolness in the shadows, the fragrance of sourwood blossoms and the earthy damp mushroomy air.
And so for now, I continue this practice of blessing the Earth with my feet. It feels so utterly right to me and is a strong and steady practice to keep me on my path. It is a powerful way to return to now, to return to presence and feeling and sensing. It humbles me in just the right way without punishment and with grace.
One day more recently, I experimented with mantras as my feet met the Earth. "I love you" a step, "Thank you" a step, etc. What I discovered is that the Earth is not concerned with my voicing my love, but she welcomes my gratitude. And this was an interesting lesson to me. it is not important that we let people know (by telling, anyway) that we love them. It is very important, however, that we show pure gratitude for all beings - JUST AS THEY ARE. For though we think we long to be LOVED. What we deeply long for and truly require is to be received, seen, acknowledged - NOT for being good, or beautiful, or special - for just simply what and who we ARE.
Thank you for taking the time and care to read these words that come from my heart, from me, simply as I am.
Thank you for being simply you, just as you are.
Thank you for blessing my life with your feet as you have walked through it in your very own way.
Monday, July 21, 2014
I have recently noticed that certain kinds of comments or ideas shared on social networks spark interesting conversations. Sometimes they are completely passed over, but sometimes they seem to hit a nerve or three. One of these is a truth I have held for quite some time, and not one I would have expected to hit a nerve, and yet it did - I shared my personal belief that “there is no place that is not sacred.”
Because it struck a nerve for at least one person whose eyes rested on it, I gave a little background as to why I came to this truth. There are probably too many reasons to list that led me to this truth and in many contexts. In any case, this has caused me once more to rest in thinking about what makes places sacred. It’s funny, I can’t say that without almost suggesting that not all places are sacred, and yet they are, and of course that was my original point. It’s like God, really. And of course if we start down this vein, we’ll end up at the place where ALL THAT IS IS SACRED. And so why is there even a word, sacred. If all is sacred, doesn’t that mean there is no need for such a word? And yet we have a word for God. If God is everywhere and everything, why do we name God? And why are we differentiated from God?
It can become so confusing once we start thinking about it.
I don’t think it is so much that something IS sacred as much as that WE DEEM or MAKE something sacred - that we treat it as such for a particular reason. And why would we do that?
What is sacred in our culture (that of the USA) as far as I can see, is money, guns, freedom (which means many different things to many diverse peoples) private properties and ownership and the power that those allow us to wield over others.
In response to the fragment that I posted, a friend replied, “Come back to Atlanta. I can think of a few places that may change your mind.” Granted, for those of us who grew up in Atlanta and have watched it change in so many ways over the years, this is not an unreasonable response, and yet it opened a question for me. What makes it seem not sacred to this person? Is it the place or the way people have treated it? And I replied to the friend, “I have lived in St. Louis, Brooklyn, Atlanta, etc. It's not about where I am. It's about how I see. It is also about remembering the truth of my observation that all places are sacred. The sooner we remember this, the sooner we might remember to take better care of this beautiful planet that we are meant to steward.”
Over the years when I lived in (or visited) cities, there have been moments when all of a sudden something shifted for me and I had an overwhelming felt sense of what was in a place before it became industrialized - when I could almost see and feel the landscape as it was (or maybe will be when we are no longer here). It is a strange sensation, and a gentle reminder of the impermanence of things (and people), for sure. It is also a gift to be considered - an invitation to hold space for that which was and can be - and somehow is, underneath the surface of things.
And when this happens in me, I tend to take some moments and just look and listen and feel what is there. I imagine just a little bit what the shape of the earth, the quality of the woods, the sounds of the birds and breeze in this place is like in some other dimension of time, when people are not here or are here differently. It is a fleeting feeling sensing, and it is very real. It always leaves a deep impression in me. And so yes, I sense the sacred underneath the industrialized places. I sense the gentle beauty of the landscape as it may exist in another time. And I think to myself that there is an energy in a place that exists throughout time and space - perhaps an implicit order or imprint or blueprint for what is. And I sense that it is here all along. Just as I am aware that there is peace underneath all the busy, noisy-ness in our world.
Somehow it is like in meditation, we must simply keep letting the thoughts pass by, the noises be what they are until we rest in the peace underneath it all - with all the noise still present. And so it becomes an iteration of a vibration. Matter is simply energy, slowed down until it becomes solid, and so perhaps meditation reminds us that matter sped up returns to being simply energy. And so perhaps as we speed up our vibration, the world will regain its original order and harmony. If you have never seen cymatics - this is a great illustration. When sound frequencies are introduced to particulate matter, it reorganizes into more complex and beautiful designs - like sacred geometry.
I have heard about how certain lizards and maybe some other critters are able to re-grow tails and/or limbs that they lose along the way. And I have seen images made with special kinds of photography that capture the energy of, say, a leaf - where some part of it has been removed. In these images, the energy of the whole leaf appears, even where the part is missing. So we see that energetically the whole leaf is still present. The lizards take this a step forward, creating a part where only the energy remained after it was removed. So this leads me to think that there is some kind of implicit order in the energetic imprint that brings things into being to begin with. Which leads me to wonder, was my energetic blueprint here before I came into being? And what can I do with it - how does it work, really?
When it comes to these places in the world that have been so abused by mankind (and sometimes the weather), what can we do to restore them to their original way of being? How can we aid their energetic blueprint back into material being?
I built a blog several years ago that was pointing to one possible answer, though I wasn’t thinking of it until just now, as I write this. So maybe this blog post will also go there. Hmmm. What we can do is first do our best at whatever it takes for us to become fully present in the authentic moment we inhabit, in order to be able to see the world clearly as it is. Once we can see it truly (and we may have to ‘fake it till we make it’ or take hints from those who are clear seers), our job becomes holding the image deeply in our beings, (and here is the important piece) COLLECTIVELY. Now this may seem a daunting task. Afterall, our culture has worked hard to make us a fractured, ‘every man for himself’ society. But if we take a hint from indigenous cultures, we see that they operated (especially during celebrations and important rituals) as a whole - all-inclusive. And there was a reason for this.
It will be by the deeply held vision of so many peoples that the world is restored to some semblance of harmony and health - if this is to happen while we are still here. I have believed for quite some time that up until now in recent centuries, it is due to the strenuous efforts of the world’s many religious and spiritual traditions that focus quite a lot of energy on keeping things whole - specifically or especially those who spend multitudes of time in meditation, that we are still able to inhabit the earth.
What appeals to so many of us in the Indigenous traditions of the world (I can only speak for myself, so am making an assumption here) is the inherent “making sacred” of all things/places/peoples. Indigenous cultures make rituals for all kinds of things. To welcome a new life into the world (human, animal, plant, etc.); to mark certain transitions in life/death; to honor the elements and ancestors who provide wisdom and sustenance; for healing; for traveling; for growing crops and harvesting food in the form of plants and animals. In indigenous cultures, all things are alive with spirit in some way - even rocks.
And so, what I have been thinking this morning is that it is our job - those of us who can or intend to perceive the implicit order of things, i.e. the light inside, the beauty underneath the mess, the peace underneath the noise - to hold the vision. To SEE each other in bright wholeness and to SEE the earth in it’s bright wholeness, too. Not so easy when the river is full of black oil, the mountaintops are removed for coal, the ice caps are melting, the air is dirty, the waters are fouled, the animals are going extinct, your lover is dying, our children are ill. But this is our most important job. It just is.
And then interestingly, as I was just soaking in the tub to try to get warm on this cold, rainy spring morning, I was listening to “On Being” and Krista Tippet on the topic of Kabbalistic connection between Ein Sof and human moral action, playing a recording of Rachel Naomi Remen reciting what her grandfather had shared with her about Ein Sof and “tikkun olam,” and I think this is exactly what I have been trying to convey in my ramblings this morning. What a beautiful synchronicity for me to hear this just this morning.
“In the beginning there was only the holy darkness, the Ein Sof, the source of life. And then, in the course of history, at a moment in time, this world, the world of a thousand, thousand things, emerged from the heart of the holy darkness as a great ray of light. And then, perhaps because this is a Jewish story, there was an accident, and the vessels containing the light of the world, the wholeness of the world, broke. And the wholeness of the world, the light of the world was scattered into a thousand, thousand fragments of light, and they fell into all events and all people, where they remain deeply hidden until this very day. Now, according to my grandfather, the whole human race is a response to this accident. We are here because we are born with the capacity to find the hidden light in all events and all people, to lift it up and make it visible once again and thereby to restore the innate wholeness of the world. It’s a very important story for our times. And this task is called tikkun olam in Hebrew. It’s the restoration of the world.“
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