The Witnessing of Nature

In early May I took a lone drive up to Algonquin Park before the ice had completely melted. Many roads going into the near interior were unpassable. Very early in the morning I saw a lone wolf crossing the road. I stopped to watch and he watched back at me. Last year as well on a camping trip I encountered a number of moose and a bear. I have crossed paths with many Boars as well, here in Germany in my woodland walks. 

For me, there is nothing like that encounter with wild life especially with the more human shy wildlife. It involves a stimulation of the senses back to times of a deeper connection with the animate environment that has been lost with all that has come to insulate and distract me  from that. That direct contact  involves an experience beyond the speaking of names,  meeting nature in a more pure and direct way, form to form, than I have come to conventionally know.

It is this sensual experience that is something that I value greatly even prior to being able to articulate and define it. As I settle into the moment that I am attentive to my direct experience I am complete in it. Nature makes it easier to engage in this way. There is something in the expression of that experience that I also value greatly. That final product of the expression is not the experience  itself, but the creative awareness that is a part of the process of expression is. 

As an artist the creative process is what I am, in an ongoing way, drawn to. There is a profound similarity to the experience of being in nature and witnessing and in meditation.

Something Missing in Old and Habitual Ways

I’m sitting here at a restaurant in Magdeburg, Germany watching and listening to six senior men talk with each other, in German,   about politics. It is the morning after the Manchester terrorist, suicide  bombing in England where 22 youth lost their lives. I see reflected in myself a fear that they share about what will come of myself and all that I have come to know myself to be.  It is not so much spoken but more hidden in their verbalized concerns, assertions, opinions and distrusts. Something is lost in their articulation of words. It doesn’t seem to express the body directly. There is sophistication and an intellectual focus  that makes matters confusing. There is no universal agreement accept to look to blame some external entity.-

As these men do,  we seem to see and experience reality through our own unique lens of understanding. This lens of understanding is influenced by when and where we live (time and space). Collectively, our ideas and concepts about reality ultimately influence how we experience life. Therefore, our ideas, beliefs, and concepts (most of which aren’t even ours, but are inherited) will determine our perceived reality. This means that in terms of space and time, the “me” of here and now is probably going to experience reality differently

From Sāntideva’s Bodhicaryāvatāra: 

 My foes will become nothing, 

My friends will become nothing,

 I too will become nothing,

 Likewise all will become nothing.

 I am  once again adjusting to my place here in Germany. I am aware, possibly more directly than these men of a sense of uncertainty and fear, perhaps of what will become of me and all my familiar thoughts, that have provided some superficial substance.  Am I abandoning all that I am or is it only ideas and  concepts that have actually served more to define me and limit my experience? Are my perceptions and definitions of self something real and permanent and of an authentic essence  or are they arbitrary and incomplete? Is this new and different environment a threat to what I am or is it possibly an opportunity to open, confront and be with my fears, doubts and insecurities and delusions in a way that I have not in the past known. Will it  open and transform me in a way that my old habits and striving for security and stability would not. Can I discover something more authentic of what I am in the emptying of concepts, beliefs and habitual thinking ; something organic of a more fundamental essence than what I have come to believe myself to be.

Experience

According to Merlau-Ponty the sensing body is not a programmed machine but an active and open form, continually improvising its relation to things and to the ever changing world. For this to occur the body must experience existence from its natural disposition and not bogged down in rigid dogma and fixed perceptions. From a practical point of view it seems to me that I can’t predict my choices because so much of that is dependent on relations external to the form that I am. Efforts to follow a programmed and/or fixed way would mean that situations are anticipated  only based on what is known and can’t be truly referred to as an experience as they  only obstruct my authentic being in an ever changing world.

Nietzsche captures for me, that,  I have lost all sense at having arrived or that I am on my way somewhere or to becoming something. There is a lucidity about where I have come from although that journey has not been anything as mystical as I have at one time envisioned that it would be. He writes “I love those who know not how to live except through surrender, for they are on the way elsewhere.” There is no compelling sense of what I must do next or in the future, outside of the energy that leads me in choosing what path I should follow in each moment. My increased sensitivity and aversion ebbs and surges and tends to emanate from within as the guiding force in my choices. They are less cerebral and less conventional than they once were, being more about finding and settling into flow.

The Dionysian

In follow up to the last post and discussion that I had with Aussiescribler, it seems that Nietzsche understood this deeper  process of reconnection and wrote  further about human kind having had lost touch with his nature through this separation. The slaves of ” modern ideas” are the children of a fragmented, pluralistic, sick weird period that had lost the capacity for true happiness.

Nietzsche defines the Dionysian experience as  “A drive toward unity, reaching beyond personality, the quotidian, society, reality, across the chasm of transitoriness: an impassioned and painful overflowing into darker fuller, more buoyant states; an ecstatic affirmation of the toatality of life as what remains constant – not less potent, not less ecstatic – throughout all fluctuation; the great pantheistic sharing of joy and stress which blesses and endorses even the ghastliness, the most questionable elements of life; the eternal will for regeneration, fruitfulness, recurrence;the awareness that creation and destruction are inseparable.”

Vulnerability or Suffering

It seems that I have been conditioned to avoid feeling vulnerable. Wanting to avoid pain and shield myself  from it seems to be natural learning—and, at the same time completely not possible, because in my habitual reaction to close, guard and protect myself against pain, I  also block out the light that reflects from it. So there is a conditioned fear that arises as the boundaries that I have built around the heart to protect myself from feeling pain, discomfort, and hurt are  threatened. The reaction to prop those boundaries is in fact a chain that keeps me tethered to it, disallowing feelings of the opposites—joy, love and passion.

If I am able to witness  and be with this fear and the energy of self that it is arising out of , I am enabled to experience it in a different way, to realize a potential for opening to a deeper seeing. In this experience of opening there’s a seeing of the fear that is the stimulus for adopting this superficial and familiar pattern aimed at alleviating and stabilizing and in turn to be with the vulnerability in a more intimate way. To learn to share my weakness is to make myself vulnerable; to make myself vulnerable is to show strength. 

In some ways, suffering is a result of being stuck in this traditional, habitual pattern of experiencing and fearful reaction to vulnerability. Only in embracing our true nature, at our deepest core level, as emotional, vulnerable, and feeling beings are we able to tap our resilient inner strength.

My Self Limitation

It seems to have been a lifelong preoccupation of mine to search for ways to be free from sufferring. When one is amidst suffering, all the wisdom that I have come by, does not seem to be helpful in removing it. Ultimately in futility I turn to my humanness as a way of more fully being with it. It seems  that I am not served by separating from, numbing, rationalizing, intelectualizing or attaching to stories of what brings suffering; all ways of the self. It is more a matter for me of returning directly to the essence of what is my humanity that lay before the “self”. That conditioned “self” that has in the past played such a significant role in negotiating life I now see as more of an interference than a help in this. To exist in this world there is a certain amount of hardship that is encountered. How it is that we come to relate to that experience of hardship is something worth inquiring into.

Awareness or Biological Sentience

In Buddhist philosophy the mind of a sentient being is not a product of biological processes, but something primordial which has existed since beginningless time. More and more literature,  philosophical  and scientific writers are realizing the practicality of this perception. It is a perception, ( some would say experience ) , which can emerge and  can be influenced through a meditative, contemplative and creative way of living. It has more to do with the concept of awareness then of biological sentience, awareness involving a much more encompassing and comprehensive experience. 

Part of coming into this awareness involves removing the conditions that impede a more authentic realization. Much of  the existence of these blocks have to do with conditioning and attachment to fixed concepts and ideas of what and who we are and how we should understand.. An openness which enables a seeing beyond the reductionist, mechanical and materialistic ways and methods, that we have been conditioned to use to define and understand our experience is an integral aspect  of awareness.