Wandering Mystic

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We are

the golden sun

as it rises

over the luminescent

leaves

casting a lemony

haze over

sharply etched veins –

Sap is rising.

 

We are basking

in the early morning

light, saluting

each other

as lizards

in a universal language

we both comprehend –

Knowing too that

the steep price of intimacy

is loss..

 

The present is

my refuge

as I weave

through lime green

bushes and pale

gray scrub.

Delicately perfumed

magenta, deep purple,

salmon, and

buttery wildflowers

cry out for life as

we burst through

chalky alkaline soil

softened by rain.

Graceful giants, we

stretch our bowed limbs

Earthward,

gifting some with blessed shade.

Our roots

are starving sponges

soaking up

puddles of standing water.

 

I feel wonder at the stillness

that allows for Nature’s

Voices to be heard.

Towhees,

white crowned sparrows

doves and nuthatches

chant in harmony.

One cicada strums.

 

High Praise is offered

to Life in all

its complexity

without hesitation…

I envision the wolf

that licks my face,

a tangle of black snakes,

wiggling tadpoles,

pear trees birthing the fruit

of dreams?

 

 

These mental sparks

cast too dark a shadow

of separation,

and I breathe

deep

sliding back in.

 

 

Then I hear him:

My gray tree frog,

his throat blown into

a translucent bubble

trilling just beyond the veil…

 

 

I am both – him and me,

self and whole,

spinning Nature’s web.

I am the living land,

overflowing with her grace.

Breathing in like my frog does

intoxicating feeling,

sight, sound, vibration,

through fragile wrinkled skin –

open to impermanence,

‘predictable pain’,

and this precious moment

of Becoming.

 

 

Working Notes:

 

Recently, I wrote that there are not enough visionaries and mystics left in our culture, let alone in the world. Sometimes I write to find out what I am really thinking/feeling and I realized when I penned these words that I had uncovered a belief I didn’t know I had. I do believe that modern culture has lost access to its visionaries and its mystics. We dismiss these people as folks who are at best impractical, unrealistic, at worst delusional or crazy. It occurs to me that without including visionaries and mystics any culture will eventually self-destruct from lack of Imagination and lack of Love.

 

One definition of a visionary is a person that thinks about the future in a creative and imaginative way, a person with keen foresight. Many artists and writers are visionaries. This kind of person often lives in what I call the crack between worlds, inhabiting a space that is outside time or ahead of linear time as most of us experience it. If non –conventional or radical ideas are not acceptable then individuals will be forced to live in exile. A good example of a visionary who went through this phase is the poet Bob Dylan who had a pulse on the culture of the sixties and beyond, and was despised for speaking out during the folk era that was so focused on a change for the better. When I listen to Dylan’s early songs it is clear to me that he knew “something” was coming but it wasn’t necessarily a positive development. A careful reading of Dylan’s early work, (The Times They Are A-Changin’ is a good example) will initiate the reader into the visionary’s perspective.

 

There is a relationship between being a visionary and a mystic but there can be differences too. Visionaries “see” what’s ahead but may or may not understand what they are seeing, mystics actually “enter” other realities to experience them. I believe Bob Dylan did both.

 

Visionaries may survive as artists of one kind or another but today mysticism has no place in global culture as it is generally experienced, with the possible exception of the probably insane person who is directly tied to a particular religion who is also tagged as a mystic.

 

Some partial definitions of mysticism that made sense to me focused on those who seek by contemplation and self-surrender to obtain unity with or absorption into the absolute. Direct experience/intuition/apprehension or its opposite – an experience of nothingness seem to be intrinsic to the mystic’s experience. What isn’t mentioned here is that we are also talking about the experiential aspect of Love.

 

I personally like William James’s viewpoint which suggests that during mystical states we become one with the absolute and/or become aware of our oneness. This perspective contributes to the interpretation that mysticism is a distinct experience that highlights the importance of the senses to attainment of unity with the ‘divine’ however ones defines that word.

 

According to James mystical experiences have four defining qualities: They are ineffable; they cannot be explained in words. There is a noetic quality to these experiences; any insight into the depths of truth cannot be apprehended by the discursive intellect. Thirdly, these experiences are usually transient but their effect persists. And lastly, mystics do not come to these experiences as active seekers, but as passive recipients. It’s important to note that for James there was nothing inherently theological in or about mystical experience.

 

It is also argued by some that mysticism is part of the process of perception, not interpretation; that is to say that the unity of mystical experiences is perceived, and only afterwards interpreted according to the perceiver’s background. This may result in different accounts of the same phenomenon. For example, a nature mystic seeks union through objective experience, an individual mystical experience of union can also occur in the Great Void.

 

Visionaries and mystics allow us to perceive possibilities or actualities that are beyond our very limited human androcentric understanding. They also teach us about Unconditional Love. They lift us out of ordinary time, not through intellect, obfuscation, or denial but by opening a door through the present moment into a place where experiences have no past or future. The Now is all there is.

 

I have spent my life trying to function in a foreign culture that has remarkably little meaning for me; a culture totally disconnected from that of the natural world. Personally, Nature is both source and container – the place where both the visionary and the mystic originate and thrive because we are one. On-going communication with non-human species is a natural part of this way of being in the world, and all language, human and non human a like, is directly mediated through my body, which is, I repeat, also the body of Nature.

 

I always capitalize the word Nature because S/he is generally ignored, dismissed, despised, exploited (read raped) by humans; I seek to re-dress that imbalance by highlighting her importance, and not because I perceive her as some kind of deity.

 

The little poem I wrote attempts to illustrate how fluid this natural connection is for this nature mystic, and how easily I slip from one way of being into the other. It is also a reflection on what it means to be ‘in love’ in the largest sense of the word.

 

I should probably add here that I am severely directionally dyslexic – the universe does have a sense of humor – navigating the natural world may be effortless (although I am never the one orchestrating these experiences/relationships), while I am literally lost at sea in the violent culture I was born into.

 

As a dedicated naturalist and a nature mystic I also can’t help wondering how entering into an intimate relationship with Nature might change our attitude towards the planet we depend on for life. Perhaps instead of seeking transcendence we need to choose immanence?

 

 

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