Dennis and I went out for a day of kayaking today on the Otonabee Nature Reserve. We both share a love of nature. One of the wonderful things about being in nature is that I seem to let go of all that is not authentic in what I have become. It invites me in without question, assumptions or judgements. My opinions, beliefs and everything else that muddies and confounds my relationship with self and life seem to fall away and something more authentic emerges in absence of the external hindrances. There is no pressure to conform or expectations to meet or pressure to be what others perceive me to be. No regulations, time lines or appointments to meet.
These days I spend as much time as I can in nature in intimate rapport with it. It is so much larger than the “self” and more real than anything that my mind can imagine to be real. In some ways my awareness is expanded and mind is cleansed of debris and insight is illuminated. All this is truly unfathomable with the human mind. Here in this place I see more clearly where it is that I am lost and confused.
I dont know about other cultures but I do think that we do not learn to see ourselves honestly in our culture. At an early age we are generally taught to mistrust our direct experience. When we decide in life that we want to attend in a more honest way we seem to have to wade through and discard much of what we have accumulated which can be a long discerning process. Whitney Smith writes in his book “Wild Culture” that “in everything you come across there is always a choice. There is a choice of either going deeper, or going away. If you go deeper you can go right into the thing until all you are seeing is yourself.” Than “you” it is complete. Well not really. Its actually the beginning.
My own experience is that there is a point where confrontation of what has been covered over is required in finding our way back to our essence. Ironically we have become socially conditioned to avoid pain so to experience what is authentic of our self and human experience requires that we consciously learn to enter into aspects of our experience that might be painful that we have avoided dealing with in the past. This involves awareness and when we are ready we are able to a let go of our habitual reactions that have insulated us from that. It seems to be an individual thing depending on how much we are prepared to focus in a way that is not about pursuing and expecting the same degree of comfort and security that has become our indulgent way. I am reminded of the movie “The Matrix”. Some individuals preferred the life of delusional hedonistic perceptions over dealing with the pain involved in living a reality experience.
Ultimately a consequence of a conventional way of living is that it perpetuates separation and disconection from self, others, other beings and the universe that is at the heart of our individual, social, relational and global problems. Ingmar Bergman wrote that “In solitude I have the feeling that I contain too much humanity.” I think that collectively, there would be benefits if there was more of an inclination to bare with some of this difficult and more realistic experience of humanity.
I walk into the forest a couple kilometres, not far from where I live here in the Kawarthas, to this spot where I am alone on the Otonabee River. I sit here as I do many days, listening to the birds sing, the woodpeckers working, the carp rolling in the shallows and the muskelunge splashing in the river. Occasionally a beaver swims by and the wild turkeys wander near. I have never seen another person here. Its a place where I find it easy to contemplate and occasionally write and sometimes paint.
I am quite immersed in the mystery of nature and life these days. More than ever I see that my experience in life is quite unique and I am coming to value that more each day, although it does seem to make it more difficult to find commonality with others at times. More often than not I find that I am outside what others value being more content looking within than many others are and to stand alone and to be authentic in that. What is required for an authentic experience of life is discovered and nurtured there; intuition, intimacy and self revelation and most of all life essence. There is guidance emanating from this place as well, more than what is sought from external resources. I question the relevance of conventional, mechanistic thinking finding those who think they know to be quite boring. They don’t seem to realize what they are missing in the grasping, onto their way of thinking, it being a creation of their own fragmented perception, relative in its relevance, illuminating a piece of the puzzle in one way of seeing and nothing in another. We often ignore the devastating consequences of our fragmented thinking on our planet, our relationship with nature and with each other .
I feel compromised when talking with others, when there are assumptions made about what they know, what can be known and when there is an absence of questioning, investigation and intimacy in these exchanges. I don’t know what they claim to know. I don’t want to know as they know. It takes me away from the mystery that is more real and revealing to me.
In an ongoing way I feel myself opening to something more divine in life. It arises as something “other” than what I have known in my conditioning. The belief in what I was and what I had become is dieing. It was something that had to die before a deeper awareness could reveal what is more authentic of my being.
When I hear others talking about their intentions to improve themselves I am suddenly saddened in the realization that I have been as they are; consumed and lost in a similar way; trying to make myself into something else, unfortunately, utilizing the tools and values of a mechanistic, materialistic rational society that only renders us more adrift. In an ongoing way I feel that there is opening to something more mysterious and divine in life; not separate from a simultaneous sense of grief related to how much, however unconscious and habitual it was that I had for most of my life been scaping this chronic sense of being lost and unreal. It has not been an easy change. The organism of self that I had become, perceived change to be a challenge to its identity. It was comfortable in its way of escaping dissatisfaction and in being in that niche of a conventional identity as it is collectively valued. Ironically, it perpetrated feeling incomplete and more dissatisfaction and reinforced a limited perception of self and reality. My way if coping was to focus on becoming as a way of hope and not having to face the truth of it.
Becoming conscious of this dilemma I allow myself to let go and to surrender, sinking to a more intuitive awareness, beyond thinking and seeking relief in becoming. There are difficult emotions that I must encounter and experience, yet in a new way with new awareness, unfamiliar, to the surface self that I am shedding. Dealing with pain in a more direct and real way can be a difficult step not supported in our indulgent culture.
This is the adventure of life, of the ups and downs, and encountering it free from those traditional values that tend to neutralize the living of life and in so doing influence a deluded, unstable and unfinished perception and foundation. This opening to an unknown brings a new refreshing experience that allows for a settling into acceptance of what I am and how I am changing. In that, what has been lost that is more of a divine and ineffable becoming and unfolding is revealed. As Henryk Skolomowski wrote, “Rationality as the foundation of one’s life leads to a barren and futile life. For rationality is mute about the question of mystery, of human destiny, of the manifestations of divinity.
We sometimes believe that we can accurately discern reality through our thinking, but our way of thinking renders reality in our own image. What we believe influences our perceptions and in turn our reality. In a world dominated by atomistic, mechanistic thinking the mind is conditioned to think small and within the confines of narrow disciplines. In such a world the imagination which is capable of producing new metaphysical designs atrophies.
There is great value in contemplating and exploring what it is that influences our thinking. Is it a servant of the old or is it an integral part of a creative evolution and unfolding?
Reality Unfolding Painting by Gord
Im on my way back to Canada, about one hour from Toronto, writing from the Air Canada Boeing that I am crammed into. My trip home has turned into a bit of an adventure. Adventure always seem to have an aspect of challenging my normal intentions and coping abilities. It can turn into discomfort. It can certainly upset my physical orientation and as I age that is more possible. On the way to Frankfurt from Dresden the plane was diverted to Cologne because of a Frankfurt airport closure, due to weather. I missed my Canada connection and ended up having to take two extra flights and an added night stop over and detour to Heathrow airport in London before getting on a Flugzeug to Toronto.
One consequence of this was that I ended up spending a lot of time watching people in airports and on the four plane rides over two days. More than usual I was aware of my occasional reaction to others. Things change, so maybe I am seeing the world in a different way these days. I still have a sensitivity that can make my experiences self encapsulated but not without the lack of insight as was the way before. Certain things touch a place within that seems to trigger a need to be defended. I cant pretend to know why. It seems that it is just something of me that learned to be this way, that I thought was something permanent. I now realize that thinking of myself as something fixed in my ways is a mistake. It comes with unfolding in my perceptions and realizations; one might say an evolving.
One might also think that twenty years of meditation would have helped to resolve those things of myself that are so flawed, like my anger and defensiveness. This airport episode helped me to see that I still react in frustration to things that others do at times, often from a sense of feeling victimized or taken advantage of. The best I can say is that at least I now see my ego. I see how I am defending something perceived and unspoken and I increasingly realize that much of what I think and assume is influenced by factors are not clearly classified as reality, that are somewhat rigidly implanted and unconscious. In my desire and intent to awaken to deeper truth I question and loosen and work away at these fixed formations. I still have that edge that wants to react and Im not sure it is so easily amendable to willful resolution. I am now more able to laugh at that part of my conditioning and to let go and feel remorse for those I’ve hurt in my defensive reactions. I realize that its okay to confront people but when it involves insight into these dynamics it works out better. I no longer take myself, my fixed perceptions and lofty self expectations so personally and that translates as well into not being so defensive and ashamed of my flaws.
Im just another Joe although thats not entirely easy to be at times. It can leave me feeling exposed and vulnerable. I have spent my life pursuing and believing that Im something special, at least conceptually and in a distorted way of belief. I’m no longer in this way or in need of perfection which was something that always seemed to accompany it. Accepting my ordinary Joeness has its challenges, but its a more real place and there is something awakening about it. In letting go of all expectations and in settling into such ness there is something more real discovered. There are people and other beings in an alive universe that are inherently and fundamentally a necessary part of my existence and experience.