Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Hollow Bone Power

The eyes and ears, tongue and skin, nose, teeth, heart, brain and breath, all are made of the same stuff as the things of the outside world, and that is why they can speak to one another and understand one another. We couldn't see or hear anything if what we saw and heard were not of the same nature as the eyes and ears.

This great lake of power is one thing- stuff "out there", stuff "in here"- all one pool- and that makes sense for beings like we humans who came out of this collective power, out of this world. Evidence of our belonging here lies in how identical to the world we are. Of course, there is another element of us- the spirit of us- that is not a thing of earth or water, but there is something about the earth and water and air that is likewise not just material and the spirit of us is the same as the spirit of them.

All of those spirits originally came out of Great Power and are kept from moment to moment by it even now; the spirits of humans particularly, like those of other animals, came from the unseen world, long ago, to join with the other stuff of this world. Some say those spirits came from the sky world, others from the world below the earth. I think it may be the same regardless- from beyond the boundaries of the earth-world, shape-changing beings came. I think that maybe they can get back to their origins if they desire it, or if there is a need to. When the spirit moves away from the earthy remains of the body during the power-change we call “death,” that spirit has to move through the ghost world, and perhaps beyond, depending on the spirit.

To use the Hollow Bone power is a way of becoming pure and sane, of becoming aware of one's sacredness, a thing people often forget due to the wild, distracting powers flowing through this world and through the senses and mind. I don't think the powers mean to be distracting, although the most wicked ones certainly do. But the vast majority of powers are not naturally disturbing, just vibrant, energetic, intense, or fast. Those kinds of natural presences, especially a lot of them, can distract or sweep away an un-centered person, or a person that just lives within the boundaries of the skin, cut off from the Greater power.

A person has to get purified in hot or cold water, or in the smoke of powerful plants- sage and sweetgrass are the unfailing pair of friends that I've always used. When you're pure, you need to get to a quiet place where you can see the sky and earth, and you should start by taking some time to really identify how similar all of your senses and body parts are with the ground and sky and trees and winds out there in the world around you. This is how I like to get "out of my skin"- by seeing how all of my stuff "in here" is the same as that stuff "out there".

If you see no real difference between the flesh on your arm and the brown dirt under your feet, you start to "expand" a bit, or flow out of yourself. The same goes for the heat in your heart and the heat of the sun, or the saliva in your mouth and the dew on leaves or water in a pond. You always have to "give up" a little- give up on the constant "I'm me in here" attitude you have for your mind and body, and let yourself flow out of that trap, and into the world.

This doesn't take a lot of effort, just a little. Mostly, you have to let it happen, and you'll see that it naturally occurs if you step aside and allow it. It’s like the powers in us are tired of being stuck in a human form, and want to get back "out there", want to expand. This greater “extended body of unity” is really a great truth about us; it's a great joy to really get into it and flow out there.

Once you're feeling the power I'm discussing, the next step, which should naturally arise in you, is to feel the immensity of the great lake or ocean of power that you're a part of. You can feel that by just closing your eyes, opening your heart, and really "opening your feelings"- and without fail, it will eventually be there to your awareness, because the Great Power is always there. This is where you have to accept that you are standing in the midst of forces that are very much greater than your small self. We are all particularly small compared to the Great Power that is our origin. Of course there's no part of you that isn't part of that Great Power, just like there's no part of you that isn't part of the whole world, But when we deal with the Great Power, we're also dealing with the "spirit" part of you.

The center of the Great Power is your center, too. This kind of talk has been repeated by many spiritual teachers, and some people may find it bland or cliché by this point, but it's actually a pretty layered observation. The Greatest Sacred thing isn't far away, outside the universe somewhere, but everywhere there is elemental material, or a being with a mind, like a spirit, a squirrel, a dog, or a person. Every thing is a vessel for sacredness in the most extreme form, and if you become aware of this about yourself, you begin to radiate a sort of light. Spirits will recognize that light and be well-disposed to you, and wicked spirits will fear it.

For now, when trying to use the Hollow Bone power, it's enough to give yourself up to the Great Power, literally offer your small self to this Greatness that you can sense around you and deep within everything, as well as (in a sense) beyond it all. So, after you've "flowed out" a bit, as I described before, you should turn your senses to "full open" until you can naturally feel the Great Infinity that stands behind and within all things. That infinity, our real and mysterious origin, is what you must give yourself over to. This is about recognizing and loving the power greater than yourself.

We’re dealing with an offering here; this process is a heartfelt opening and offering of self and everything about you to the sacred incomprehensible, to infinity. It can be done with or without words, eyes open or closed, hands spread out or at your side, however you feel it at the moment. Whatever you do, understand that it is the heart of this work. It is the most profound of all religious or sacred offerings. When you feel what you need to feel, or are meant to feel here, then you are ready for the Hollow Bone.

Your body is the hollow bone- or should I say, all of you is the hollow bone. Consciousness and body and anything else that might be a part of you, like the strange and mysterious spirit, is the hollow bone. Whatever “it” is, if it is part of you, then it is the hollow bone, or it should be.

Every being and every thing is meant to be a channel for the Great Power, and most things are, without even thinking about it. Humans, like some other beings, can get confused and distracted; instead of letting the natural power of life and mystery flow through them, flow through their minds and bodies totally unimpeded, they trap power and let it spin around in them and settle and stagnate. I don't guess any power can ever be "still" but it can certainly seem to get stuck in persons and seemingly stagnate. It goes from being a strong flow of forces that can make someone healthy and powerful, to being something that can kill them or drag them down to disorientation and angst.

So when you've done the two things I've talked about before, you're ready to let go of the power you've mindlessly trapped. You're ready to go back to what you were when you were born- a hollow bone, a free channel for power. You do this starting with your will- you have to will to let go of all the power you have trapped in you. That power takes many shapes, like bad memories, good memories, worries, fears, frustrations, hatreds, and sometimes, just feelings. You have to realize that the Great Power wants nothing more than to naturally pass through you and out of you, back into itself and everything else, and then into you again, forever. If you let it, you get strong, clean, and healthy. You become joyful, in place, and powerful. If you stop it, you become torn up by the tension.

Once you will to make it happen, you use your body to make it happen- stand up, straighten your spine, tilt your head back and imagine your body hollow. Let all that power flow quickly up your spine and out of your forehead, and way up into the sky. Will it to happen. Visualize it, if you want, but visualization is a little lame, when real power is involved. It's better to feel it than to visualize it. It may take some effort (but never too much) to really let go- let go- let go- and let all of it fly out of you. All the angst, worry, depression, hurtful memories, and even happy concerns and preoccupations- all of it goes out. Even your sense of self can go.

This won't be hard to accomplish, because you've already flowed out into the world of which you're a part, and you've already given yourself over to the infinite sacred. This last step is simple if you have those other two perspectives helping you let go. Many people have problems with “letting go”, especially of the hard things, the things that bother them the most or torment them the most- misery is a habit.

But not letting go is like grasping tight to a piece of heated iron that’s burning into your fingers, and letting go is always possible- it does take an act of trust, however, in the infinitely Greater Power and in the world of which you are a part. When you’ve exhausted every other means of trying to find relief from the things that have become stuck and tangled up in you, you risk nothing with that great trust, and the act of letting go, and you might indeed gain everything. Unbalanced things that flow out of you are destroyed by being forced back into balance, or dissolved in the greater flow altogether.

Some people can’t let go of the things they consider “good” and want to keep, but I always feel that we can’t really lose those things- they flow out of you and become a larger part of the world, of the greater power, and thus a greater, deeper part of your “extended self”- the “self” beyond the boundaries of flesh. By letting the Great Powers have these things, you aren’t just making a great offering of wisdom, and you aren’t just balancing yourself well; you’re living up to your sacred function in the unfolding of life itself. The best way to have the things you want the most is to let them go, and let them become a greater part of things, a deathless part of the all. You’re part of the all, so you always share, in some way, in the things you give away with a good spirit.

You practice letting go, but never with too much effort, and you'll finally feel the flow happening naturally. You need to realize that we all hold on to too much; it's okay to let everything, including the good things, go. These are powerful offerings of yours to the Six Worlds, to the earth-world, which absorbs them and to the world below the earth, which takes them away, and to the world above the earth, and the world above the sky, which takes them up to infinity. And the flow of life never stops, through you. Even when you're "running clear", cleanly flowing, you’ll see that a flow keeps coming.

I find that something even more powerful happens here, when I flow clean- my mind is also clean. I feel the part of me that forever knows, that "knowing" spirit in me, sitting there, feeling and observing this flow, purified and attentive. Attention- clean, open attentiveness to everything, is the real end of this power-work. Always cultivate attention; powers can't reach you or guide you if you can't be open, clean, and attentive.

That spirit, that “clean mind” that you discover sitting on the back of the hollow bone, watching the river go by, has always been there, journeying along through the world, from its source in Great Power, to this stand of woods I happen to be in right now, to wherever it'll be going after I die- when it moves with power into the ghost world, and maybe beyond. I know that if I'm all tangled up and not letting my whole being become a hollow bone daily, doing this power-practice until it becomes a part of my daily life, (something that I am more than something that I do) that my journey into the ghost world will be just as tangled up.

As a healer and power-worker, this is one of the sources of my strength. I don't pray or do anything with power until I've used the hollow bone to get clean and open. The hollow bone flow takes away stress and confusion and all of the harmful forces that kill us. It has great value for all who can find the time, ease, and attention to do it, until they become it.

I could spend all night listing the benefits of the Hollow Bone power-practice, beyond just cleansing and purifying oneself, and fulfilling one’s sacred role as a channel of power; if for some reason hostile spirits or curses were to attempt to lodge themselves in your very being, they could find no resting place in the tangles of power they require to stop and take up residence- they would be swept away in the flow through the Hollow Bone.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Treatise on Natural Truth

A Treatise on Natural Truth:
Organic Truth Perspectives on the "Nature of Nature" and All of Nature's Many Parts

* * *
"When I say "organic truth" or "natural truth", I am referring to those truths that we can see demonstrated to us by Nature herself, and which we can reason out or infer based on the appearance of nature's forces and their activities.

Natural truth is both experiential and empirical/demonstrable, and we experience it in the nature of our interactions with other persons in our natural environment, and the environment itself. Some aspects- the very deepest aspects- of natural truth are mediated to us in a personal, intuitive form through the sacred stories and spiritual metaphors utilized by primal peoples worldwide, past or present, in their various sacred and organic cultural expressions."

See this essay here

Thursday, December 10, 2009

We Know Their Spirits Through Their Bodies

Today, the Bangor Daily News published a story about Penobscot Indian veterans being honored by the Government. That story is reprinted here:

* * *

INDIAN ISLAND, Maine — Jean Francis Chavaree was 6 years old when her big brother, Donald, then 20, enlisted in the U.S. Army and went off to Fort Bragg, N.C. It was February 1942, just after the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.

“Most guys got to go home before they were shipped overseas,” Chavaree said, “but we never saw him again.”

Donald Raymond Francis was reported killed in action in the Philippines on Feb. 5, 1945. His body was never recovered but is believed to have been buried near the battle site.

At an emotional ceremony Thursday on Indian Island, Jean Chavaree, now 73, accepted a folded Penobscot Nation flag from a senior Pentagon official in honor of her lost brother.

“We continue to engage in efforts to recover Donald’s body and bring him home to his people,” said Penobscot Indian Nation Chief Kirk Francis, as Danny Pummill, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, handed the folded flag to a teary Chavaree.

It was one of several moving moments during Thursday’s “Freedom Team Salute,” which also honored three Army veterans still living on the island reservation. The Freedom Team Salute program recognizes Army veterans and the families and communities that support them. The program was launched in May 2005 and is administered by the Office of the Secretary of the Army and the Army chief of staff. More than 2.2 million individuals have been recognized through the program since it began.

With commendation certificates and letters signed by Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. and by Secretary of the Army John McHugh, Pummill also honored these Penobscot Indian veterans: Master Sgt. Charles Shay, who served from 1943 to 1964 and saw combat in both World War II and Korea; Spc. Eugene Joseph “Chip” Loring, who served from 1966 to 1969 during the Vietnam War; and Pfc. Leslie Banks, who served from 1943 to 1945.

Banks’ son John Banks accepted the commendation materials for his father, who had stayed home because of the icy roads. Other Penobscot veterans stood to be recognized during the brief ceremony.

Chief Francis and the entire Penobscot Indian Nation were honored with a commendation for their support of Penobscot citizens who have served with the Army. Francis became the first American Indian tribal leader to receive this recognition of support from the program.

Pummill acknowledged the Penobscot Indian Nation’s historic support of the U.S. Army, from the Revolutionary War through the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For Jean Chavaree, the event was bittersweet, bringing up painful memories and kindling new hope.

After the ceremony, she recalled the awful day when word came that her brother had been killed.

“My mother had to go into Old Town to get the telegram. Of course, we had no bridge at the time, so she walked across the ice with my sister. When she got to the Western Union office and opened the telegram, she just collapsed,” Chavaree said.

Her mother, Chavaree said, “lost it” for two years, and never really recovered from the loss of her only son. The family’s grief was compounded by not being able to bring Donald’s body back home to Indian Island.

For years, she said, they believed there was no body to recover, that Donald had been blown to bits when his tank hit a land mine. But within the past few years, she said, evidence has emerged that Donald was the only one of the five tank crew members to die in the blast and that he may have died from a broken neck. The son of one his buddies on the tank crew has been trying to find the site of the battle, she said, and, potentially, the site of Donald Francis’ grave.

Chavaree said Pummill asked her to contact him when he gets back to Washington, D.C., so he can expedite the search for the truth.

“Wouldn’t it be something if I could get my big brother back after all these years?” Chavaree asked. “It’s a dream.”

* * *

Few people really understand the force of emotion and connection that possesses those who have lost a loved one, and been unable to obtain their bodies after their deaths for a burial at home. Some people wonder at the wisdom of such a seeming attachment to a physical body- what would really change if Donald Francis' body was brought back to Maine? His spirit, surely, is long gone. What his family loved in him was something intangible, something that works together with earth and water to create a "person", right? Surely that "person" is gone now, yes?

I suppose there are a lot of Buddhists out there that would say the family of Donald Francis was just attached to his body. His sister seems to think that she'd be getting "her big brother back" if she could get his physical remains and bury them at home. But clearly, this man is not at all found in a pile of remains. The remains are remains. The man was something else.

But the story isn't finished there. What I said above is the prevailing view of many revealed religions, but it isn't a view that I prefer. For too long I've had my neck bent backwards by these transcendental religionists that want to draw harsh lines between matter and spirit. For me, this story and the emotions behind it are easily explicable. The spirit may be an intangible mystery, a seed of the Great Mystery which plays about every being- but we don't experience spirit in that way, when we join with our loved ones. Their spirits are with ours in every moment we are together, but we don't get just spirits, we get spirits and bodies.

The spirit of Donald Francis was born in Maine, among his people, because love bound it there. It belonged there, because that was the land of his people. The earth of his body, the water in his body, was the earth and water of Maine, of Indian Island. The spirit craved that earth and water. His spirit showed love and experienced love through that body, which was compounded from sacred forces of earth and water.

To return his body would be to return more than just "remains". It would be to return a piece of Maine and a piece of his sacred land to the greater whole from which it was drawn originally. Places are sacred, and the "home" of a person and their family is absolutely even more so, by virtue of how they bond with it and live on it. I can understand how a native family can experience emotions of loss AND a relieved sense of "regaining" if they could somehow get the remains of a family member back. No, they aren't getting their brother back just as he was when he left. But they would be getting back intimate reminders of who and what their brother was while his spirit lived here with the flesh.

We know our loved ones through their bodies. Their bodies are very important. Their bodies bear the imprint of their spirits, and are illuminated by their spirits, and shaped by the spirit. Even when the spirit is gone, the body maintains something of a vague power, a sanctification due to this precious relationship and experience. The body is not a mere vessel to be cast off and discarded. People who think like that are enchanted with the religions that teach us to turn away from this world and keep our eyes on distant heavens. This world is sacred, and so are its earths and waters, and so are these bodies that our spirits join with to have the experiences we call our lives.

Every human being who is sane, I think, will experience the loss of a loved one's body after their death as a hole, a void, an incompleteness for these reasons. Bodies are not "mere matter" to be placed vertically "far below" the spirit. These two poles of every life exist on an equal keel, in many important ways. We come to know people through their bodies. The earth and water of the body give a vibrant power of expression to the spirit. The body is not a lesser brother to the spirit, to be shunned for its mortality, but a part of spirit to be cherished.

There is an important reason why the ancients were respectful about burial places, and about the treatment of the body after death. And it has to do with some very deep powers, and a recognition of spirit as not alien to this world. If we ever loved the spirit of a person, then we must treat their bodies well, as well as we might keep safe a beautiful letter they once wrote to us- for the body is another expression of their will and their hopes and dreams. The brave spirit of Donald Francis
has gone to the place where all the dead go, and gone on to meet with the Truth about things. But so long as his remains can be found, they should be returned to his home, for something that his spirit was involved in is still here, and in a broad sense, his power is still here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Five Principles of the Way of Life

I've finally edited and made available a short essay regarding a synthesis of primal and animistic worldviews and conceptions of the sacred, to be found here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Loneliness and Speaking with Spirits

Cousin, after years of treading a spiritual path, and working to condition myself such that I was able to be consciously aware of the sacred and incomprehensible things, I have reached a point that I feel that I can speak of a certain mystery that intrigues both of us.

I get the idea that most human beings feel quite alone. Not always alone in the sense of lacking human contact, but alone in a broader spiritual sense. Where are the "spirits" of the natural world, the Gods, the unseen beings that so many sacred stories and myths talk about? The ancient humans don't appear to have been alone.

Aside from living in close, intimate harmony with one another, within family groups, their stories present us with adventures alongside animals that walk and talk like humans: the master-spirits of those animals, perhaps. Gods descend to marry human brides; the dangerous powers rear their heads and speak and act- the reaches of extra-sensory reality seem to have been closer, in those days.

You can't doubt the spiritual aspect of human life when the spirit world is walking and talking alongside you. Where have these powers gone? Naturally, I'll tell you they haven't gone anywhere; I can say that we have forgotten much about experiencing in that special way that gives us access to them- but such a statement can be unsatisfying. Dreams and visions are still real, and nearly everyone has had some hints of those- but we have enough reasons now to doubt our dreams and visions. Their sanctity has been greatly diminished because of the doubters and the materialists.

Certainly we have a destiny in this world, a purpose for living, a reason. This is my belief. Aside from the aid one can gain in discovering their path through life, there is another good reason to reach out to the Unseen and talk to the powers there: it will cure the human sense of loneliness- spiritual loneliness, which makes us mad in many ways. When we can't see the tree next to our window as a non-human person, all we are left with is some bark and leaves. When we can't see the river as a non-human person, we are left with some water.

Bark, leaves, and water don't make good conversation partners. They don't cry out to us to be respectful and treat the world well- if they did, we might have a hard time dumping waste into our water, or destroying our trees in our blind, money-motivated, and imprudent manner. A vegetarian once told me that "carrots didn't scream as loud as cows", as a justification for why she felt better killing plants for her food, rather than animals.

Even though I think she was wrong to prefer one sort of killing over another (plants are still living beings; they are non-human persons, sacrifice is sacrifice, and death is death) I think this principle applies to spiritual ecology and spiritual life as well. If we could speak to the unseen powers, or hear them and sense them, we would be encouraged through whatever shreds of decency we have left in us to live more harmonious lives with them- and you cannot separate them from this sacred, natural world.

If we didn't feel so alone in the forest- if we felt the reality of our situation- we would walk through the trees just as we walk through a human neighborhood, with a mind to respect and wary of offending others; with a sense of familiarity and a sense of community. We would be aware of how surrounded we are by other persons, persons who enjoy being well-treated and respected just like we do.

Our sense of "human aloneness" can be broken many ways; it must be broken, or we will go crazy (perhaps I should say "more crazy") and finish destroying ourselves. Our slow species suicide has already begun; maybe something I'll say here can reverse the trend, at least in the minds of individuals.

I would like to present a procedural framework for contacting spirits- for having a conscious experience of contact with non-human persons. There are countless ways and methods for this activity, born in every historical human culture; even in non-animistic Western christian culture, prayer and meditation is suggested for having a conscious experience of contact with God. But this is something very different.

This is a five-step procedure for contacting non-human persons of a more immediate variety; the kind that live unseen right next to you, pretty much wherever you are. I am speaking of the non-human persons of trees and stones, of rivers, the land itself, of springs or mountains, or hills. This would work for the spirits of animals as well, though it might be better to begin with the spiritual presences associated with things that don't fly or run quite so much- like trees or rivers.

This procedure was correlated by me from many experiences of my own, but it was the spirit of the river near me that taught it to me in its final form. There are understandings here that are purely sacred, and strong.

The five steps are as follows, along with a short explication for each:

1. Gaining proximity to a phenomenon related to the non-human person you wish to engage in direct communication with

2. Cultivating a sense of the non-humanness of this spirit or person

3. Cultivating a respectful attitude and heart towards this spirit or person

4. Formally gaining the attention of the spirit or person

5. Going into a passive mode of openness.

Gaining proximity

Not all non-human persons have a perceptual "outward form" associated with them- one good example would be the spirit of the wind. Wind is invisible, but when outdoors, one is nearly always in contact with the wind in some way- one is in proximity- so long as the wind is blowing that day, wherever you are. This procedure is more favorably and easily used with the powers associated with spirits that can be experienced in an easy way- trees, mountains, bodies of water, and the like.

Going to the tree, river, hill or mountain (and one really need only be at least in sight of it, though the closer one gets, the better) is the first step in this process. The "journey" to the place, no matter how short or long, is actually a powerful and venerable part of this process. One goes to this power's tangible presence with a reverential attitude. Before the approach to the place, one should wash oneself into purity, with hot water, steam, ocean or spring water, or some other wash, and/or smudge with a sacred herb that has the force of purification assigned to it by tradition.

Cultivating a sense for non-humanness

This portion of the procedure is one of the most neglected aspects of spiritual communion that I have encountered- and my personal realization of it represented quite a leap and evolution of my own ability to complete this work.

When we are attempting to speak with non-human powers, we forget often that they are, in fact, not human. This sounds trite, but from the perspective of a human mind and heart, it is a crucial fact. We aren't used to communicating intellectually and consciously with entities that aren't humans, that don't look and think like us, and use our language. We can communicate in various ways with our animal friends or pets, but in general, the vast majority of our conscious communication is with other people.

This fact conditions us to think of "real" communication only in human terms. It makes us consider the theoretical existence of any intelligent non-human power only in human terms- humans get angry; so what could anger a spirit? Humans have preferences- what does a spirit prefer? Humans look lustfully upon other humans- do spirits lust after the same things?

Sacred stories of spirits interacting with humans are also framed in human terms, though sometimes, the more powerful the story, the stranger you'll find spirits acting- the more ambiguous, the more mysterious.

Those who desire communication with spirits must focus themselves intently on the fact that these non-human persons are, in fact, not human; they have to let human-like preconceptions about the spirit go and open themselves to what it really means and feels to approach what is (from our perception) an alien being. I don't mean "alien" in the sense of being from another planet; I mean alien to our human thinking, motivations, and sensibilities- and the more powerful the spirit, the more this will be true.

Some things will always unite us to our brothers and sisters in the non-human range of life; that sacred stories present spirits with sometimes human-seeming motivations is not a mistake or a superstitious limitation. But to imagine the unseen powers as simply "humans writ immortal and insubstantial" is an extreme error. It limits the possibilities that a spirit-seer must remain open to.

My procedure is to look within, and sense a large distance between me and the spiritual power, and, distant from me, is the power itself, which I never visualize. I only know that it is there- after all, I can "feel" it by virtue of being near the physical phenomenon that I believe it is associated with- and I let it be a non-human, mysterious thing. I concentrate on the strangeness of non-human persons, how they must feel at least a bit strange or even disturbing from the human perspective, owing to our limitations as human beings. We see the world as we are- that is an unavoidable truth. Now, at this step in the procedure, we can break with that habit just a bit and let the powers out there be what they are.

Too many people go out to find "spirits" and forget that "us going to them" is an approach that is only half complete. One must realize that spiritual powers will respond to those they wish to respond to, and that they "come to us", as well. You can go as far as you like and try many things, but without certain key perspectives and ingredients in place, spirits aren't likely to just "come to you", thus making the contact whole.

You will discover that meditating on the strangeness of non-human persons, their mystery, and letting your human-shaped notions about them fall away, opens you up immediately to subtle levels of possibility for communication that you may never have engaged. The strangeness of non-human persons doesn't mean that they are not intimately connected to us, on the deepest levels; it does not mean that they are hostile, though some can be dangerous.

Cultivating a sense of respect

Once you have accomplished the first two stances of this procedure, this central third step may be the most important. One must make it clear, on the heart level, that one comes in a sense of total solidarity and respect for the spirit one wishes a communion with. You make this clear by filling the heart with respect and awe, a sort of admiration born in the fact that your hoped-for communication partner is another living being like yourself, but having a life-experience very much unlike you, and its life-experience is no less crucial than your own.

The more beings and persons that exist, and the more we can integrate consciously into our network of relationships, the more sacred power we will personally collect and manifest, and the closer we will come to our own destinies- for a part of every destiny is learning to live in harmony with all powers.

A note of caution here is, of course, required: there are powers who spend their existence being harmful to other living beings, including humans. This procedure really isn't for communing with them, nor should a communion really be an issue for them- they are best respected for their sacred necessity, but avoided or left alone, and at most, sealed out of near proximity to human minds and dwelling places.

Offering your heart in respect to the spiritual power that you are communicating with is the first of the two things you will do to gain its direct attention. This activity need not be complicated; if one has the necessary poetry in their heart for the sacred powers, it won't be hard to feel respect and awe and even veneration- the strong sense of sacred worth- for the spirits as a whole, and the spirit whose communion you wish.

Then, you let this feeling extend from your chest and middle-body to the direction of the physical, tangible phenomenon whose proximity you went into.

Formally gaining attention

At this point, one must make an outward demonstration of sound and offering to gain the attention of the spirit. Drums and rattles are the best, but the addition of burning sweet grass or other fragrant herbs makes a far more powerful demonstration.

Without drums or rattles (or alongside them) one may softly whistle, play some instrument, or sing. The real point and power here is in knowing that you are making these offerings of sound and herbs with the intent of gaining the spirit's attention.

At this stage, one may wish to speak ones intentions for the conversation or communion. One may speak them in the heart, but I find that they are more effective if they are spoken aloud on some level.

Going into a passive state of openness

The final phase of this procedure is the setting of the stage upon which this sacred drama can finally be consummated. You, as a human being, have gone as far as you can "towards" the spirit- coming, purified, into the presence of some item or phenomenon associated with it, losing ones' preconceived notions of it, allowing it to be the mystery that at heart, it truly is; emanating respect and kinship towards it, and calling it formally and traditionally. Now, if the contact is going to occur, it will be because the mysterious entity comes to you- and even if it did, if you are not passively open to its approach, you will not encounter it on any level.

At this point, the chest and middle-body must be opened to the power, and one must spiritually "watch" for the approach of the being. Watching in this way doesn't mean looking, though one may also look, if they like. It means being in touch with the "chest" sight, and with how one feels. One must not make an attempt to strain to "feel" this approach; one becomes passive, open to whatever arises. The spirit can come in many ways- as an animal, even; it can manifest as winds or sounds, as a vision or a feeling. The "feeling" of the presence of the spiritual power is normally one of the most profound aspects of this experience. But it can go much deeper.

An internal conversation can begin in some cases; these are more than just the classic "I'm talking to myself" quandaries; this natural and mystical internal conversation takes place as readily and actually as your communion with my words here on this paper- an "outside source" of intelligence and personhood speaks to you, shaping feelings and knowledges in yourself of its lore, responses, or intentions. Another "layer of sight" may open up near you or in you, "strong eyes" opening to show you something of the spirit in an inner-sight. Only those who have gained such an experience can understand what I am trying to say.

The greatest problem with these sorts of experiences is the degree to which our hearts can deceive our heads. If we wish for spiritual contact very fondly, we put ourselves in danger of "making it up"- and fooling ourselves. But real openness to spiritual contact only comes when we accord spirits the final and greatest respect we can give them: the option not to communicate with you. You cannot assay this procedure if you are obsessed, singlemindedly, with talking to spirits. You must go into it with the attitude that "if it happens, good, if not, fine. All is well either way."

If you know that you will be disappointed at failing to gain a communication-experience, do not try this procedure. If you intend to use this procedure as part of a vision-seeking, you must extend this attitude all the more. There is nothing wrong with working hard and trying multiple times, but you cannot let yourself slip into the state of obsession with result. This would not be respectful, and it will lead to self-deceit.

For those who are seeking a vision, this procedure can be used in conjunction with sleep- once the spirit is called, going "open" and going to sleep can allow a stage for a dream-vision to arise from the power. One must be open to any and all visions that arise in sleep, and have no expectation of outcome.

It is no accident that this procedure for speaking to non-human persons also outlines a very wise way of approaching and communicating with human persons as well: to let our preconceived notions of other humans fall by the wayside, to be respectful to them and cultivate a sense of our kinship, and to not be obsessed with the outcomes of our relationships with others- allowing them to be who they are. These stances in communication can help things between people immensely.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Pure and Without Any Darkness

Becoming a father, and being allowed the great opportunity to observe in detail the growth and development of human beings- my precious daughters- has been the greatest blessing and privilege of my life. These years of being a father have brought me more joy than any other years- but it also brought up many personal challenges. These challenges are chiefly tied into how a father or a parent feels he is best able to guide and protect his children, as they slowly prepare to be launched into the world to live on their own.

Adults know the world- insofar as anything can be "known" when filtered through the lens of opinion and preconception. They know that the world is beautiful and wonderful (or at least most might use those words from time to time) and they know that it is full of perilous dangers, as well.

We were all children once, and we grew into adults- learning of the world's perils and gradually assimilating ourselves into the risky venture of human life. We adults have all come to grips, in some way, with what we face- as much darkness as the world contains, we find a way to rationalize it; we find a way to cope and survive and to sideline thinking about the darkness too much. We know the pitfalls of the world, but few of us go too far into addressing them directly.

We have all become used to "things as they are"- and this is not an entirely bad position to take, accepting as it does that some darkness must exist, and integrating that into a (more or less) stable condition of mind.

Becoming a father changed the extent to which I was content to accept "things as they are"- while I, like nearly all adults, have come to see threats and dangers to myself as acceptable and unavoidable on some level, I cannot tolerate the idea of threats and dangers to my children. My situation is further compounded by the understanding I have that I am not the author of Fate, nor the author of my children's lives and destinies. As much as I would like to protect them perfectly, I know that I cannot. I can only go so far- perceptually- towards fulfilling my fatherly desire to see to my children's well-being.

I can't make the world better for my children, in the way that it would need to be "better" to assure their safety and well-being perfectly. In our world, we have many religious traditions that cluster about and preach ways to understand darkness and light, to understand salvation and redemption. Many preach and teach about the real goal of an essential human's life, the "true" story of mankind, and the moral truths they say we should embrace, if we wish to be assured of lasting happiness. With so many voices raised to teach and guide, a din exists, a confusing din of fear and hope and conflict.

This is another danger for the world- the danger of being lost and confused. I worked for years to lift myself above this particular confusion- the lonely battle of the soul- and what success I achieved has also been brought into question by my children's young, innocent lives.

I say this because the world of religion and philosophical paths also poses its own array of dangers and risks. Who has the "right" way to live? I've studied and learned of so many- some threaten us with eternal hells; others with endless cycles of confusion and grief if we don't find the clarity they promise. People say, and have always said, many things. I was (and am) willing to "take the risk" of the soul with myself- I can and always have ignored the dire warnings of the hysteriarchs and fear-mongers, and chose the path of conscience and inner guidance- something I was dissuaded from doing at nearly every point. But I did it.

And I am willing to live as I live amid the confusion. If I fail, then it is my detriment. But my children? What can I tell them, how can I guide them, when it is their own metaphysical risk at stake? How I guide them now will influence them greatly in the future; what can I do for them? In the middle of the din, it is hard to know. My children are my flesh and blood, but they are not me- they have a path to walk that is not mine, life experiences to have that I may not have.

Any attempt on my part to truly impart my deepest values may harm them, in unexpected ways. This doesn't mean that I will leave them without guidance, or simply defer them to whatever random encounters they meet, to learn as they will; I will do my best to be honest, and to be intrusive to the smallest degree that I can be.

I want so much to shield them from the dangers and the traps of the world, but I have been left feeling helpless in the face of the sheer immensity and complexity of this world. I am not the sort of person who dulls out his feelings with the opiate of repetitive labors, or of "cheap good deeds", nor do I take shelter in the herds of people who gather to behave repetitively in the name of spirituality or to smile about the good deeds they have done for others.

All of that, as Nietzsche said, is contrary to the truly healthy person. I face my sense of helplessness and accept it as part of my destiny unfolding; I wait for it to change, on the tides of its own natural cycles, into something else, for change it must. While it is here, I endure and feel, and discuss my feelings, as I am doing now.

So I'm not writing this to lessen my distress; I am writing this, in a sense, to celebrate it- and to celebrate what places it led me to, this very day. For without it, some important understandings that I won today never would have come to me.

* * *

Like all of the many complex phenomena of this world, a precious insight or understanding is compounded of many parts- many threads of force drawn from many other experiences. We stand on the backs of our own histories and experiences when we move perceptually "forward" in our own minds. Many things that I have read before came together for me today, and it all began when I picked up a book from my local library called "The Vision Keepers" by Doug Alderson.

Doug's a guy who, like me, felt a calling back to the primal spiritualities of the "first nations" peoples of this planet- those people who still maintain some sense of what I have come to call "primordial sanity". Flipping through the book, I noticed a chapter about his time with Lakota Sioux peoples, in which he took part in two important ceremonies- "Releasing the spirit" and "Throwing the Ball". I was familiar with both ceremonies from reading "The Sacred Pipe" many years ago.

However, something had changed since the last time I had read them- especially the ceremonial throwing of the ball- I was a father now. It is because of this that I was able to see something in it that I never saw before.

The ceremony, like all Lakota ceremonies, is geared towards the goals of their community, and towards the supreme spiritual reality of their religion: Wakan Tanka. Wakan Tanka, despite the easy mental shelf that most whites try to put him on today, is not "God" in the usually accepted sense of the word. Wakan Tanka, before missionaries came and tried to change this into a monotheistic conception of "God", was the "sacred incomprehensible"- a mysterious power formed of the totality of all sacred powers that existed, and all forces.

In the throwing of the ball, a four-year-old girl is placed in the center of a large ring of participants, and given a buffalo skin ball, which is red and blue. The red symbolizes the earth, the blue symbolizes the sky. Together, it represents "earth and sky"- all powers, the world, the universe, and totality. She throws the ball to each of the four directions, and the people gathered around in that direction fight like mad to catch the ball or get their hands on it- it is quite a competition. The person who catches it, is symbolically catching "everything"- gaining his or her Wahupa, or enlightenment.

Thought many try to catch the ball, few do- which symbolizes how many people in life try to gain a special conscious relationship with Wakan Tanka, and how few actually succeed. If you are standing there, trying to catch the ball, you have a lot of competition- and the people around you, struggling against you to prevent you from getting the ball, represent the ignorance and delusions that stand against you. Because of the state of things today, the odds are always against any single person who strives for this special closeness. We are all beset by many opponents and contrary powers.

But why a little girl to throw the ball? Alderson recounts Black Elk's words on this matter:

"Black Elk said "It is a little girl, and not an older person, who stands at the center and who throws the ball. This is as it should be, for just as Wakan Tanka is eternally youthful and pure, so is this little one, who has just come from Wakan Tanka, pure and without any darkness. Just as the ball is thrown from the center to the four quarters, so Wakan Tanka is at every direction and is everywhere in the world, and as the ball descends upon the people, so does his power."

* * *

Something began to change in me when I read this. Memories came back to me of many things I had read throughout my life- all dealing with the concepts of "the sacred" and "youth". In the last months and years, I have watched my daughters explore the world- watched how they were able, with fresh, new eyes, to take in what they encountered- without malice or prejudice, with simple, open curiosity.

A father sees these things, and if he is a man of any depth, he greatly admires them. Because there is a connection between youth and the sacred that has been recounted to me all my life, from many sources, that only this day came to dawn in me, like the bright morning star.

In my Catholic upbringing, the typically cryptic statements of Jesus were tossed about like popcorn. I find that as the years pass, every now and again, something I was told that Jesus said suddenly falls into place- not in the sense of some "verification of the faith", but in the sense that these words attributed to Jesus had to come from somewhere- and the source of those words sometimes- but not always- clearly shares a root with the same pure core of ancient wisdom that Black Elk's words (given above) came from, or from the same place that the teachings of other sages came. In the gospel attributed to "Matthew", it is written:

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

The entire notion of becoming childlike to approach the kingdom of heaven also came back to me- and it was a Catholic saint- St.Therese of Lisieux- who said "Perfection seems simple to me. I see it is sufficient to recognize one's nothingness and to abandon oneself as a child into God's arms."

This theme of the relationship between the child-like and the sacred or the divine keeps coming up, from all points. The Catholic Church has long taught that children, if they die, go directly back to God, or to heaven, or what have you. Interestingly enough, there is a spiritual (and formally, a theosophical and even Buddhist) explanation for that statement. Black Elk said it best when he said "...just as Wakan Tanka is eternally youthful and pure, so is this little one, who has just come from Wakan Tanka, pure and without any darkness."

In the theosophical sense, when people die, their bodies die, and their minds awaken in an astral/etheric body, and continue on in a conditioned state, very perceptually similar to the world that their bodies inhabited, and which conditioned their astral and ethereal form. Some may not even be aware that their bodies have died, but they become aware, eventually.

From this point, the ethereal and astral bodies begin the process of decay and fading- just as the body had been doing all their lives. At some point, these subtle bodies are intended to fade, so that the mindstream can move into the mental and spiritual planes of experience, which is the theosophical equivalent of "heaven".

But this process- of passage into the higher planes- can be traumatic for those who are entrenched in the astral- it represents a "second death" of types, to fade from the astral level, and go on to a further unknown, because the mental and spiritual worlds are extremely subtle, and most people, in life, stay involved in the physical and astral/emotional realms almost entirely. Thus, this "between" state, this astral state after death, is "purgatory"- a person must be purged of their attachments to this life, their emotional entanglements, and entrenched habits, before they can let go and "move on".

But two categories of people do not arise to become "stuck" astrally- realized, spiritual adults, and children. Why? For two different, but similar reasons: truly spiritual people have already released themselves from attachments and entanglements in this life; they were already turned and open to the unknown spiritual reality before they died. Thus, they fade and move on quickly.

Children are "naturally spiritual" in a sense- not so imprisoned in physical and astral cages of long habit- they do not have deeply imprinted and entrenched opinions and ideas and attachments to things, in the harmful sense that adults tend to. Like my daughter seeing new blossoms for the first time in her life, or airplanes, or cars, or animals, they take what comes before them as it is- it is we adults who decide whether or not what comes before us is acceptable, good enough, ugly, evil, or the like.

This is totally in line with Mahayana Buddhist sutras regarding the Bardo or afterdeath state- those with strong attachments and preferences, who lack the openness of sages or children, will struggle against the strange visions of the afterdeath transition, and create causes for more suffering, as opposed to simply "going into" the Dharmakaya, the infinite and timeless Body of Reality.

In ancient Greece, initiates into the Mystery cults were given the title "Kouros" (if male) and "Kore" if female- both names indicating a "youth". Even old men and women were "youths", if they had been initiated- something that is no longer a mystery to me. In Greek Mythology, when Heracles immolated himself on his pyre, his body is shown dying (in ancient art) but his Kouros- the eternally youthful part of himself- goes up to Olympus, to be with the Gods, because the Eternally Youthful part of all of us is a divine, undying thing.

Black Elk says that the spirit of humans and Wakan Tanka share the same center- wakan Tanka, the sacred incomprehensible power that somehow is reality, is described as "eternally youthful"- and so, by virtue of that powerful statement, is the Wakan Tanka of each of us.

In line with the Theosophical perspectives I was discussing above, the Lakota have an interesting and similar model of death and the journey after death- they believe that, after death, the ideal is for a spirit to move on to "union with Wakan Tanka"- harmony with all that is. However, the spirit in a conditioned state cannot do this, and must walk a long journey to the point where they may either fulfill that union, or be pushed "off to the side" by the guarding power of the sacred road, and have to stay in a conditioned state.

The Lakota ritual of the "Releasing of the Spirit" helps to ensure that the spirit of a recently deceased person will find that sacred union. A child, however, probably would not need that sort of help.

* * *

While reading "Steps to an Ecology of Mind" by Gregory Bateson- one of the greatest books I have ever read, by one of the wisest men this world has ever seen- I found, some months back, this discerning passage in his essay entitled "Style, Grace, and Information in Primitive Art":

"Aldous Huxley used to say that the central problem for humanity is the quest for grace. This word he used in what he thought was the sense in which it is used in the New Testament. He explained the word, however, in his own terms. He argued- like Walt Whitman- that the communication and behavior of animals has a naiveté, a simplicity, which man has lost. Man's behavior is corrupted by deceit- even self-deceit- by purpose, and by self-consciousness. As Aldous saw the matter, man has lost the "grace" which animals still have.

In terms of this contrast, Aldous argued that God resembles the animals rather than man: He is ideally unable to deceive, and incapable of internal confusions. In the total scale of beings, therefore, man is as if displaced sideways and lacks that grace which the animals have and which God has."

This passage struck me, and strikes me to this day. I see a great support in it for my contention that the sacred is not entangled with paltry purpose and the deep, deluded ranges of self-consciousness. And I see this in my children, every day.

Those of you who are parents will likely feel tempted to point out that children, even very young children, seem capable of deceit and manipulation. You may wish to give me the “bad child” speech, or engage the tired, bitter “children don’t stay young for long” line (to which I might say “they lose their natural grace quickly thanks to adults and their warped notions of “maturity” and the extent to which they seem hostile to childhood, or dismissive of it”) or you may wish to say that I am setting my self up for some “fall” when my children lose the innocence of this state they now maintain.

You may wish to be sagely and “balance me out”, strip the stars from my eyes here- but you would only be showing the extent to which you have fallen from the subtle realization that I am now enjoying. Any adult who had this reaction would be showing how little of the child was left in them. Unlike the Jesus of the New Testament who bade the children to come to him, saying that the kingdom of heaven belonged to them, my sagely tutors would be taking the position of the Old Testament patriarchs and misery-mongers who described “maturity” as “putting aside childish things”. I don’t normally quote the bible this much- nor will I again, likely- but the comparison is good, in my way of seeing. I see now that real maturity- spiritual maturity- is eternally youthful and child-like.

I know that children grow up. It is my intention here to discuss “youth” in a different manner, the occurrence of youth that we are all- child or parent- temporarily blessed with. I have seen how ancient and wise cultures and wise people of all ages have noticed the relationship between youth and the sacred- and it is worth pointing out. As crucial as I see it now, it is worth shouting from mountaintops- “Do not lose your youthful sense of wonder!”

My ultimate point rides higher than any worn-out parent’s dim perceptions: my point is that my children- as I have experienced them up to this point- evidence a grace that I certainly lack at most times, and which most people I know lack. My children are happy and content at play, even with simple things like sticks or rocks. They are enthralled and open to strangers, not immediately suspicious of them, as I am. They do not harbor prejudices against others, as I was taught to.

They do not make the judgments I make- all of these things that I know lead to my unhappiness and stress, and certainly which cause everyone I know to be unhappy, ill at ease, and unsatisfied with many aspects of their lives. When my children see blooms, they see beauty and simply enjoy it; I am fortunate if I am having the “good sort of day” that lets me just smile at it. Normally, I wonder at what species it might be, try to dig through a field guide to find out, or worse yet, I don’t notice its beauty at all.

I see the sacred operating through my children in a way that I know it must have operated through me once, and through all of us- but we have forgotten, and grown, and found our "darkness" as adults. Because of that darkness, and because of our entanglements and deceits (especially our self-deceits) we will face a hard road into the afterlife, just as we face a hard road now, in our everyday lives- but it is the pure minds of the very young that still enjoy a special closeness with the sacred incomprehensible.

* * *

I can share an interesting personal insight that I had recently that goes to relevance here. As an adult, I feel- I know- that I have a responsibility to the sacredness of life not to needlessly destroy life. This includes not needlessly hurting or disfiguring life and living systems- and that includes plant life. If I were to walk into a forest, and see a bush covered with beautiful blossoms, and tear the blooms off haphazardly, leaving them on the ground, I know that the spiritual power of that plant-brother or sister would be rightly angry with me; I know that it would be worse for me, lessening my connection with the spiritual community of wholeness, of which I am a part.

But my three year old daughter will grab a flower and yank it from a bush or the ground, to show it to me and glance at it, and eventually just abandon it to the ground. And as I watched her doing it one day, I realized something- looking with my other senses, I saw that the spiritual power of that plant was not upset by her taking of its body as she did- and I was confused about why this was the case. Before this, I had encouraged her not to destroy blooms or plants, and she mostly does not. However, when she does, she does not enrage the powers in the same manner that an adult would.

Then I realized it- the sacred is resonating purely from her; there is no failing on her part, no underhandedness or viciousness in her action, no treason or disrespect in her, when she plucks the flowers, that the other powers perceive it and understand. This has nothing at all to do with my daughter being "previous to the age of reason"- it has to do with her natural closeness with the divine. That is why the sacred powers do not look askance at her, as they would at me.

* * *

These experiences and understandings which coalesced in me in the last few days have left me at a new place on my spiritual path- a place that is both old and new, perhaps would be a better description. Looking at the world, inside and out, whole and one, and at the sacred powers, including the sacred incomprehensible that is the totality of all, in terms of youthfulness, has helped me to connect to this world in a way I never could before in my adult life.

The supreme spiritual power that is there, within and without all things, is not like a stern adult judge; it is not a blind, careless force. It is not best described as a loving mother or a strict father. It is like a young child, exuberant, free, honest and open. W. B. Yeats said it best when he described the Goddess of Ireland as "your mother... who is forever young." The sacred in the land and sky is eternally young- our experience of youth is an insight into what “eternity” may mean.

All of this has helped me to understand how I could help my children as they walked the path of a human life. I could help them in the same way that I was helped: I can help them to never lose touch with the eternal youth inside them. I can avoid chiding them and telling them to "grow up" in some scornful way, and never make light of their youthful insights into things.

I must always stay aware of what I have said many times before, but which never lacks a necessity to repeat: children are not just "adults waiting to happen"- childhood is every bit as needful and appropriate as adulthood, just as powerful and crucial to the causes of humanity, and spirituality. It is wrong to write off children as "not yet fully developed"- they are in a stage of development which has its own values and power, and should be honored as complete in its own way.

We adults should always look to see what the sacred power of youth has to teach us. I know, as most parents know, how the youth of my children has made me find parts of my own youth that I had forgotten about.

I can be a better father and spiritual journeyman by striving to find the youthful eyes inside this adult head; I can try to learn to give up my adult prejudices and preferences for things that really don't matter; I can try to re-appraise what it means for something to "matter". I can realize the extent to which my own darkness, self-deception, and opinions have walled me off from the direct experience of the world of the sacred. I can try to let those things go.

And I can do this, because the eternally youthful power of the sacred is everywhere around me and with me as it always has been- and now I have my children to remind me of it, to mediate it to me directly every day, with joy and love. My adult dullness needed a child to show me, to my face, what I was missing. My children have become my teachers, the bridge-builders for me, and I am thankful.

My guidance for them, from this day forward, will be to encourage them not to lose the fresh eyes and ears that they have now. When I was growing, opinions were given to me and sold to me as absolute, immutable facts. It took me years to realize that these perspectives were not facts, after all, and to return to some shadow of the flexibility that was once mine, when I had just come from Wakan Tanka.

I will help my children to remain flexible, as best I can. I hope that they will help me in the same way, as I begin the journey back to Wakan Tanka, here and beyond.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Inside and Out

* * *

My house has a roof and many solid, sturdy walls. When I am inside, I see little of the outside, in any direction. This roof above me serves marvelously well to protect me from the rain and heat, and the walls protect me from wind and cold. I feel the change of the atmosphere inside my house, compared to the outside- the "wide open" feeling of the wind and air outside changes to a quiet, still kind of atmosphere when I go inside- a "contained" feeling.

The colors outside are different because of the natural light of the world. That light, more enormous than I can conceive of, dwarfs the tiny shards of glass light that illuminate the inside of my house. The light of the world is a living light, compared to tiny little bulbs slowly burning out, which can be too yellow or too white, too dim or too bright. Even when the sun seems garish or penetrating, my eyes adjust. Sometimes, they don't adjust to the low wattage that holds back the night inside.

When I step back out-of-doors, the world suddenly becomes expansive. New sounds instantly appear. It feels like coming out of a deep, dense womb or cave, and into a windy, bright space without boundaries. The air is almost always more humid, hotter, or much colder. The sort of relaxation I can find inside is not to be found outside- but the sort of alertness I can achieve outside can never be found inside. I really feel like two people when I pass to and fro indoors to out.

My thoughts inside of my house are different from my thoughts outside. Inside, I think about the things on the walls, on the tables, on shelves. I think about finances, family on the phone, news on this screen or that. I think about my life as a civilized, house-dwelling man. I think about what we'll need to do to keep the house around us. I think about the time I'll be parted from my family- which is normally the best part of any day- before I can return to the house, safe in the knowledge that we can hold on to it for at least a month longer.

When I go outside, I think about what lies over the horizon east or north, about the inexhaustible possibilities that the world represents to me. There's nothing stable outside my house; nothing calcified. I think about the other living features of the environment around me- trees, birds flying, wind moving, cats hunting, deer jumping fences. I think about how I am part of their great family, too. I have a family inside my house, as well as out. It's really one family, but this house has been built, which cuts everything in two, and pulls me away from the other half.

When I'm outside, the wind and the sky brings the best news of all: rain is coming; cold is coming; the heat is breaking; birds are migrating. It sounds so banal to some, but for me, the news the sky has brought me has never made me depressed or cynical.

The sky above me is the roof of my soul. My spirit has no walls; it needs none. It only has a neverending expanse of more and more living beings and sacred topography, spreading out to a world's edge that never comes. The roof of my house, and its flat ceiling just out of reach of my hands, is the covering of a civilized man's mind, a hoodwink, along with the walls, for a mind that thinks of numbers and practicality. I am a stranger to myself when I am inside, most of the time.

Late in the year, I tend to go camping a lot. Long ago, myself and a group of friends built tents, and we take our tents and set them up. They are wood and canvas, and they look very primal, standing with their tall, earth and wood-toned peaks, their cotton-spun cloth drifting in the wind, almost like they are breathing. When we are away in those tents, wherever we are, we have the same sorts of homes that the ancients had. And there is a difference, I find, in those homes than in the solid foundations of my house.

Even inside my tent, I don't feel like I am inside at all. When we set up our tents, we spend most of our time away from them, out walking, talking to one another, sitting around fires, hiking, socializing with others we meet, and eating under the sky. I'm never more social than when I leave my house far behind, and have only this light shelter, this movable, tiny hut of canvas, maple, and walnut with me. I am social with other human beings, but also with my non-human family. Something changes; I can talk to the oak near my tent-door in a way that I can't talk to the oak near my house-door.

The tent is there, a comfort for us should we need to take shelter from an especially hard rain or sleet, but we don't go there often. We really just sleep there, and even then, some of us don't sleep inside all the time. One of us sleeps under the sky on nearly every occasion- he's bear-like in every way but one: he can't hibernate in an enclosed space. He has to have the open.

My real home is outside. My second home is that building, but I prefer the tent to the building because the tent doesn't trap you inside. It doesn't create a new, deeper atmosphere that makes you forget about the outdoors. It's not too quiet in a tent; the most enclosed rooms of a house get too quiet. The tent doesn't stop the sound of the rest of my family's singing; birdsong cuts through it. The tent does not come with rent, or a worry that someone will take it from you or force you to leave; no one taxes the tent.

The tent may not shield me from a raging bear or a robber, but then, the shield of my house makes me feel distant from myself, in the midst of its security. What value is safety to me, if the best part of me, the part I love, the part that I value, doesn't even seem to be there while I am protected and secure?

I might suddenly change my mind if a bear tore my tent open and mauled me one night. But I must question the relationship between "safety" and my house- I know, as others have known, that too much safety creates its own sort of danger. Too much safety has an element of dullness and passivity which is poison to the spirit of any creature. People who live in houses like mine wonder at this talk, but then, dullness and passivity has a way of silencing the love of the wild.

The dullness has a way of redefining life, into parameters that life was never meant to have. Life is not "safety first, safety only"- life is safety often, and acceptable risks to allow for growth and enjoyment at other times. Life is not simply rational; it is reasoned out at times, and gone far beyond the rational at others. The human in us has a pause to think, but the animal in us has to run and leap. I've lived in houses all my life, and I know that I've committed some sort of crime against the wild spaces in my heart.

Sometimes we die while taking risks- but the spirit in us accepts that. It's better to have lived that way- an open sail in the wind- than to have sat in shallow water, bobbing there, waiting for something to happen. I shouldn't feel that secure in my house; after all, it is a huge bonfire piled and waiting to ignite; it even has wires all throughout its walls, carrying a current of fire near some very flammable sheets of insulation- and a dozen things may send the first flame licking away. Escaping my tent would be an easy matter, compared to escaping my house.

A robber can easily penetrate my house, and he could do it in such a way that I never heard him- if death is going to find me at the hands of a robber, I think it could happen just as easily behind walls as it could behind canvas. But death is not my main concern. Living happily is my main concern. When death finally catches up to me, I'll have new concerns.

I am surrounded daily by dullards who either hate the weather or fear it. They hate animals, or they fear them; they hate or fear anything that they can't control with a knob or a switch. For them, the pinnacle of human life lies in how far they can control the air temperature inside, and how hot the water in the shower will run. They smooth their skin out with every sort of soap and oil, and wash their hands all day long.

Any spot of mud or dirt, any blade of grass on their clean floors, and they shout, complain, get angry, get upset. Any bit of dust on their shirts, or a stain of earth, and they tear off the garment, hurling it into a washing machine, using quite a bit of water and bizarre chemical cleaners to get the garment right again.

These dullards would say that my earthy, sweaty smell offends them. I must say, their overly-clean, chemical sweet smell offends me. They disapprove of my dirty jacket or jeans; I disapprove of their clinically dead living spaces, where I am terrified to walk across a floor or carpet, or touch anything, for fear of setting off their whining. I don't want to be in such a place. I don't care if I have to sweat or shiver more. I don't care if I have to bathe every few days instead of once a day, along with countless hand and hair washings per day. My humanity is not in a tiny, enclosed shower or under an air-conditioning unit. My humanity isn't dependent on hospital-like standards of cleanliness. I like comfort, but I wont’ be a slave to it.

I don't care about the dull insistence that everything be spotless. Nothing in my true home is spotless, and my soul is an unwashed savage. Sometimes, my body is, too. How odd that these very clean dullards are always coughing and sick, while I seem to never get ill. Maybe the spirits in the wild that cause disease can't tell me apart from the other dirty animals and the dusty trees and rocks, so they leave me alone. I don't know.

When I sit in my tent, I have dirt and grass under my feet. I've walked across that floor many times, and never gotten it dirty.

My tent never takes me away from what's most real to me, the place where I feel best. I feel exposed, uncertain about the sounds cracking or snapping in the dark around me at night, more alert; I feel more uncomfortable in the tent when the cold rain pounds it and some leaks in, and I feel hotter inside it when the sun becomes baleful and dries the world out. I am comfortable in my very cool, dark shelter of a house. But I also feel human in my tent, in a way that I don't feel in my house.