Memory drifts and fades
By mid-August thousands of birds that flooded this valley in April to mate and raise their broods have moved on, leaving a feeling of vacancy in their wake, a feeling now punctuated by the solitary trill of a grasshopper.
They are gone and I can barely remember the splendor of their songs, or the curved lines of their flight. Memory is a crude tool. Even when exercised for optimum performance it only serves to keep a fraction of our experience within our psychic powers of recall. Limitations demand we rely on seldom examined filters to determine what’s worth saving and what should get discarded. It’s a tiny sliver of experience that memory captures, a scant whisper of the reality we traveled through, now fading with the light of another precious day.
Life on Earth, or the Enlivened Earth?
This lichen clings to the blue stone of our patio. I’ve probably stepped on it dozens of times this summer going about my business. And while I’ve gone to great lengths trumpeting the value of care in my process, from the standpoint of this here lichen, I am simply oblivious. Yet to find a similar life form to lichen on any other rock floating in space would be considered the discovery of the century.
In my process I’ve gone to great lengths to acknowledge my bumpkin-ness, the sophomoric greenhorn that never quite gets what is really going on. Jung made the point that we are but in caveman kindergarten. And to that end, whenever we work hard enough and dig deep enough, it’s possible to come up against the broader collective reality that is awaiting a breakthrough to consciousness. Is it really life on earth? Perhaps the point is that we are part of the enlivened earth. The quickening that occurs around this planet is not designed primarily for man and lest we wake up to our ignorance, a rude awakening awaits us. The scales of the climate will happily topple us from our usurpers thrown.
An offering from the stillness one step beyond confusion…
“All this talk about values!” I recall a philosophy professor bemoan during a particularly passionate (complexed?) lecture. He wanted philosophical discourse to be focused elsewhere for sure, primarily on his sense of ideas, which by the way, he valued more.
For him, values indicated that the psychological was seeping into his treasured philosophical domain, and he wanted no part of it. Since those formative years in my journey, my path has veered in a decidedly psychological direction. The lived challenge of moral experience consistently outweighs any consideration for ethical systems of understanding. Although it would likely lead to the dismay of my dear professor, I’ve become somewhat of a champion for values.
The difficulty, and perhaps the insight at the root of my professors disdain, is that values held aloft in the abstract like a flag, and not embodied in our lives, can lead to hypocrisy. When we do this, I would argue, we in fact value hypocrisy, but just not in a conscious manner.
The value at the core of my life operates both extrinsically and intrinsically, getting embodied in a variety of private rituals that are offerings of and to soul. The alchemists called it their opus. I prefer practice. Without practice, all the other values simply drift off. There is no traction.
The difference, for instance, between an active practice of acceptance and a passive “whatever” is night and day. Practice can teach us to turn affliction on its head. It guides us to let go of those harried attempts to control what will never yield. “Letting go” need not be a cliché. Acceptance, properly integrated, forms the raw material of authentic offerings to all the unseen forces that shape our lives, stretched as we are taught as the shaman’s drum, between heaven and hell.
When this door opens, what words suffice?
Only an acceptance that no words will serve allows the rhythm of the waves to break through my initial arrest, a dissociative regress…from splendor?
I’ve driven hard some ten hours to gain this glimpse of the unbounded churning clime before the loss of day light.
Tracking the Self such a peculiar game once we reckon the labyrinthine structures within and without. No matter the foothold consciousness claims, the mighty surround belongs to this ever-present one whose pleasure is found in making the finest sands.
Preparations for a journey…
Placed on a campfire, the pictured artemisia lets loose a fragrant silvery smoke. The refreshing odor serves nicely as an incense offering for the soulful travel I am seeking. Preparation for travel is more than packing one’s gear, or at least it can be more. What does it look like if we spend as much time packing for our psyche as we do trying to ensure our creature comforts?
As I prepare myself to step off, I’m gathering the gains and losses of the last year. It’s a review process that I’ve come to rely on more regularly given the vast amounts of information our modern lives challenge us to hold. Typically for this process I review my journals, paying close attention to the dream series that has unfolded since the last review. I also pay close attention to lost leads, interests which surfaced over the preceding months but which, for what ever reason, did not get developed or dropped away from consciousness. While this is not a complete life review, doing this creates a reprioritization signaling that the multiple concerns surrounding daily life will be placed to the side, allowing a redirection of sorts to emerge. This process leads to a frame for what is to follow that I like to call the set. Rooted in intentionality, the set develops a context from which a picture of your goal for the journey.
Embodiment is an essential attribute of our entire earthly existence, but these days we tend to specialize in disembodiment. Posture is both literally how we hold our bodies during any action. Posture also relates to attitude, which can be thought of as how we hold our mind in relation to whatever has our attention. If one of the goals is to engage the imaginal realm, then the question follows, what postures suit this activity? Consider this: heading toward the motor vehicle department, our minds and bodies brace for the anticipated irritations. Heading toward the imaginal, distinct postures related to wonder, humility and and awe begin to dominate and support our hopes for soulful travel. As Robert Johnson reminds us:
“The unconscious is a marvelous universe of unseen energies, forces, forms of intelligence – even distinct personalities – that live within us. It is a much larger realm than most of us realize, one that has a complete life of its own running parallel to the ordinary life we live day to day. The unconscious is the secret source of much of our thought, feeling and behavior. It influences us in ways that are all the more powerful because unexpected.” Robert Johnson, Inner Work, pg. 3
As we so beautifully note in the poems of Rumi, one essential posture is to be welcoming, that unknown/unseen guests may be received.
Two “lost leads” from my journals earlier in the year that seem particularly important as I prepare for the soulful travel this week and will serve for the focus of my next post: Timing and Temperature.