The Spiritual Inner Side of This Life

man in a dark forest
man in a dark forest – © andreiuc88

“No experimental methodology ever has or ever will succeed in capturing the essence of the human soul, or even so much as tracing out an approximately faithful picture of its complex manifestations.” “My life is a story of the self-realization of the unconscious. It is not the part which can be externally and biographically dated that constitutes the real life of a person, but its myth–the fateful, spiritual inner side of this life.” — C.G.Jung from Collected Works, Vol.6, and from the Prologue to his autobiography.”

It was very much like the proverbial “lightning bolt out of the blue.” An inexplicable explosion in my heart and mind, touched off by an encounter with a clearly kindred spirit–perhaps a soul mate from a previous incarnation or the embodiment of an answer to some unconscious longing–an “Eve,” from a garden paradise; a Nefratari–wife of Ramsees II of Egypt; or the companion and lover to Jonas Rice in colonial America. The pieces of the puzzle were only beginning to form a fuzzy picture of how this lovely and mysterious soul evoked such a provocative and profound influence on my psyche. The awakening to her presence in this lifetime brought with it a torrential flood of long-forgotten memories from what seemed like centuries ago, and which were in sharp contrast to my life at that time. Like a ship trying to sail against the tide, I was ill-equipped to manage the powerful emotional and spiritual flow. Faced with the deeply-felt draw toward her spirit, I floundered at first, stumbling through each encounter like an embarrassed child. Impelled helplessly by forces I could not control, I fell headlong into the cavernous recesses of the ancient shared memories.

mountain rocks5

What follows is a glimpse into what lies within. It is not an exaggeration to say that I do not fully understand how these thoughts and images erupted from me in the weeks prior to departing for overseas duty in Europe, nor could I identify the underlying causes or enumerate the sources for the vision that occurred one night while on a field exercise in the forests of Massachusetts. The descriptions arrived on the page with my hand holding the pen, and with my heart and mind completely open to what was erupting from within me.

The Vision

Alone while on perimeter patrol in the middle of a steamy summer night, gazing up at the full moon, humming softly to myself, I noticed a rock formation shaped like the bow of a ship, which stood out prominently in the foreground against the moonlit sky. Intrigued by the thought of traveling on the ocean in such a vessel, I explored the area briefly, and allowed my mind to wander into a reverie of a sea voyage, setting sail for a sea-bound adventure, and traveling to distant shores. Exploring the limits of my youthful imagination, and caught up in the daydream of an exotic sea voyage, I suddenly became aware that there was absolutely no sound around me. No swells crashing against the side of the ship; no wind whistling through the masts, no seagulls screaming in the distance. I tried furiously to shake it off, but without success. My brow began to bead up with sweat, and my heart was racing as I struggled to free myself from the strange and compelling silence. I fell to my knees, somehow unable to cry out or to look around to see what might be causing my predicament.

Quite unexpectedly, I heard what seemed like a voice calling my name, and when I stood up and turned in the direction of the voice, there before me was the lone figure I had seen weeks before in the tree with no leaves in the depths of the forest. Terrified that I might be falling ill or be delusional with fever, my first thought was to escape, yet I seemed to be frozen where I stood, wondering why I could not “wake up” from this daydream. There was no face to the figure, only darkness below a hooded cloak, and no other sound came from that direction, but somehow, inside my head, I felt as though scrambled, choppy words were forming in my mind:

man_field_cloak2

“Do not be afraid…Heed what you now feel…great importance…this moment in time…assume the burden…seek the Fortress…hidden purpose…go now and prepare…”

As quickly as it appeared, it was gone. I felt light-headed and had to sit down. I sat there, stunned, staring off into the distance for some time, contemplating the thoughts that passed through my consciousness in the moments that followed. As I peered deeply into the early morning darkness, the words from the vision tumbled over and over in my head. I could hardly believe what had transpired, and couldn’t seem to settle down. Alone with my thoughts, I breathed deeply, and was reminded of the scent in the air which filled my lungs as a child, which wasn’t much different than the air on that day, but it filled my lungs and sustained me in a very different world.

Not much time had passed before the first hints of daylight began to appear on the horizon, and the overwhelming silence began to give way to the sounds of the mountain creatures awakening to their daily chores. Soon, blanketing the surroundings in shadows, the sun peeked out, illuminating the tips of the mountains with the soft, warm glow of the day’s beginning. Fully aroused now from my reverie by the spears of sunlight, I slowly turned away from the light of the sun, with tears rolling down my cheeks. Whether it was the brightness of the morning light or a sudden sadness that prompted the tears I could not say. Whatever it was, I had the feeling it wouldn’t be the last time I would weep on my journey.

It was a long trek back down the mountain path to the campsite where the field crew was waiting for my return from the perimeter, but it didn’t seem to take very long this time. My mind was clearer now, and I felt an unusual calmness, in spite of having felt fairly shaken just a short time before. I checked in with the station monitor, and my replacement for perimeter patrol was already waiting to take over. I went to lay down in the makeshift barracks for my section, but didn’t think I was going to sleep much. I would be off-duty until the next night shift, and as I lay on my cot, I wrote a letter to my lady-in-waiting:

Miranda by the Sea

“My heart and mind are with you. I feel your presence clearly. I’m not sure how this is possible, but it feels very good and I intend to hold on to this feeling. When I look into your eyes, it’s like looking in a mirror in some ways. How to resolve the nature of our connection remains a true puzzle. You enter the realm of my existence in unguarded moments with a frequency that pleases me greatly. Your heart is open, and your spirit is unbounded. And yet, the pain in my heart this night is unlike any other I have known. Emotionally, I accept that it must be for some purpose of growth or development, but spiritually, where the pain seems most severe, I am completely without the slightest notion of how to proceed. The occasionally hopeless feeling of being totally alone, not only because I am feeling a bit lost without you, but in knowing how to move forward again, and if it is even possible, creates a quandary of spirit such as I have never known.”

Our closeness had been a godsend during these times, and it allowed me to see where once there was only darkness. I felt blessed for the gifts of joy and music that spoke her name, and cursed by the anticipated emptiness that everyday life would hold when we would have to part, as I prepared to go overseas. Like it seemed to happen so many times before, everything would “soar brilliantly for a time, only to be eclipsed suddenly” by other circumstances. For me, at least, there was a sense of increasing evidence of the convergence in time and space of kindred spirits, and the story of Jonas was only one of many that would intersect with my expectations and intentions as I followed the path forward.

Transcending Boundaries

edinburgh-scott-monument

“Sixsmith, I climb the steps of the Scott monument every morning and all becomes clear. Wish I could make you see this brightness. Don’t worry, all is well. All is so perfectly, damnably well. I understand now that boundaries between noise and sound are conventions. All boundaries are conventions, waiting to be transcended. One may transcend any convention if only one can first conceive of doing so. Moments like this, I can feel your heart beating as clearly as I feel my own, and I know that separation is an illusion. My life extends far beyond the limitations of me.”

— Robert Frobisher. Letter to Rufus Sixsmith (from the film, Cloud Atlas)

In the recent film, “Cloud Atlas,” conventional boundaries of every sort are explored, transcended, and obliterated through a process of being transposed across generations of time, limitless space, and through the amazing interplay of personal liaisons which, in some way, contain a haunting awareness of connections that defy our commonsense notions of our temporal “limitations.”

Each of us, no matter how obscure or prominent we are in our day, are connected in ways that we seldom appreciate fully. There are many ways in which people can be connected, but certain connections are especially prescient, when we find ourselves confronted by the presence of particular kindred spirits, whose character, personality, or personal history, resonate so well with ours, that we are compelled to engage them, without necessarily understanding precisely why we feel so compelled. In his novel, “Cloud Atlas,” Mitchell expresses this idea well:

“Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”

― David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

As we all know, the heart is not a logical organ. It can bring us to our knees in moments of pain from betrayal, or when the pain of separation strikes. Such circumstances not only affect us emotionally, but the pain we experience can be accompanied by confusion and bewilderment on a scale which exceeds our ability to cope. Imagine, if you will, this very same pain being accompanied by the inclusion of memories that clearly could not have taken place during that period of temporal incarnation. Ordinarily, such experiences would be thought of as unusual, encompassing a most controversial and speculative subject. However, it is not without precedent, nor are such beliefs uncommon in cultures throughout the world.

between_time_and_space_by_yuumei-d75m84a
©2014 yuumei

“Belief, like fear or love, is a force to be understood as we understand the theory of relativity and principals of uncertainty. Phenomena that determine the course of our lives. Yesterday, my life was headed in one direction. Today, it is headed in another. Yesterday, I believe I would never have done what I did today. These forces that often remake time and space, that can shape and alter who we imagine ourselves to be, begin long before we are born and continue after we perish. Our lives and our choices, like quantum trajectories, are understood moment to moment. That each point of intersection, each encounter, suggests a new potential direction. Proposition, I have fallen in love with Luisa Rey. Is this possible? I just met her and yet, I feel like something important has happened to me.”

― David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

I have had, throughout my entire adult life, difficulty adjusting to the awareness of memories which clearly do not seem to have been possible to acquire during my current existence. Periodically, since the initial encounter with the story of Jonas Rice, the character at the heart of these recollections, I have encountered individuals who have brought these issues, sometimes abruptly and inconveniently, to the surface. Each encounter with this kindred spirit in Massachusetts, whose presence always seemed to precipitate such extraordinary experiences, led me to pursue intuitive and occasionally obscure paths and directions in the course of my investigations. I do not pretend to completely understand what it was exactly that led me to become aware of this information, and while it stretches the imagination just to entertain the notion of the possibility of connections between lives over generations as depicted in the film, “Cloud Atlas,” I can only report that I sensed these kinds of connections profoundly in my own experience, and cannot offer much in the way of empirical proof beyond my own subjective recall of these experiences and my vivid personal sense of their integrity. I have not wished for any of it, and quite frankly would rather have been a wiz at math or a Maytag repairman.

Over the years, I have endeavored with all my strength to avoid these thoughts and to deny them to myself. I have spent countless hours in a variety of different forms of pain–seemingly endless stretches of unavoidable suffering, attempting to evade even acknowledging that such thoughts existed within me. There were even times when, for brief periods, I was able to convince myself that I had gotten past the danger, and that by somehow dodging and not confronting them for a long enough time, I could quell them and silence my mind. But each new encounter brought me within proximity to a miracle–a spirit so dynamic and wondrous, that whenever I drew near, my very life force trembled. I seemed to abandon all my senses; my psyche would be flooded with memories and feelings that made me feel as though I was someone else–assuming a different identity and personality–acting in ways that I could not explain even to myself.

–next time….the reckoning before the journey overseas…

Dreamscape

dreamscape highway

“There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” — C. G. Jung from CW 12, par. 126 and “The Philosophical Tree” (1945). In CW 13: Alchemical Studies

The dream began in a nearly total darkness, with only a sliver of light highlighting the edges of the highway. I seemed to be floating along the road, as I was not inside my car or able to discern any structure around me. It took a few minutes, but I suddenly recognized the location as the road I traveled in the “deep forest vision,” mentioned in the previous post. It felt oddly serene to be traveling in this way, although I wondered briefly why I would even entertain the notion of returning there, and as I approached what seemed to be the edge of the forest, I began to feel a creeping, gradually increasing sensation of dread. This night had already been stressful, and it felt as though the split between my inner and outer self was widening as the dream progressed.

dream house on shoreline

Before I was able to set my feet on the ground, I had to slow myself by dragging them along the surface of the area approaching the clearing where I had previously observed the tree without any leaves. Once I was able to walk on my own, I deliberately began running away from that place, as I had no interest in revisiting it after what had happened there. Before I knew it, I had stumbled upon an open field. I felt my hands lightly touching the tips of tall grass as I walked toward a small, somewhat battered house, which initially felt disconcerting. I heard the distant sound of ocean waves breaking on the shoreline, and wondered why I had not heard them during my last visit. As I approached the house, it seemed much less inviting, and my pace slowed as an ominously darkened interior beyond my viewpoint loomed within. I hesitated to get too close. This was not my destination. There was no one there.

sunlit tree

I turned slowly toward the horizon which now seemed to be brightening, and I once again began running, wanting mostly to go toward the light. Before long, the stark forest landscape opened into a lush, green meadow, with all the leaves lit from behind by the sun. In the distance I could see a small cottage that gave me a much more comforting feeling, almost like coming home. As my steps once again slowed, I saw her standing by the fence surrounding the simple cottage. I wasn’t sure if what I saw was real. I hesitated again. My heart was pounding in my chest.

littlewhitecottage

I walked gladly toward her, gently eased open the gate, and we embraced willingly and joyfully. It was, for the moment, a wonderful moment in the dream that comforted me. She seemed, as usual, uncertain about her course, and even though she pretended to be alright, I knew she wasn’t. She tried to tell me she wasn’t concerned about the darkness nearby, but it was so obviously untrue, that I looked at her squarely and said, “I know what you said is untrue.” She appeared to be stunned for a moment or two, but then asked me to follow her. I took her hand and we walked around to the back of the house. There was a bit of a steep slope leading to a plateau where there was a large outcrop of rock. She led me around to one side and pointed to a painted image of a sunrise over water. As we began walking back toward the house, it was getting darker. I stopped in my tracks, as she turned her face toward me, and let go of my hand. I could feel the dream fading. I didn’t want it to end.

Upon first waking, I sat up in my bed, as if I might see her outside my window. The dream had vanished, completely against my will, and I immediately went to my desk to write it down. My hands were trembling, and I was breathing heavily while I wrote. I sensed increasingly powerful vibrations from far away, somehow shaking me as I wrote. Why hadn’t she sent word? What circumstances could make me feel these intuitions so strongly?

While having only limited knowledge and experience regarding what might possibly explain such feelings and ideas, such unavoidable sensations and thoughts compelled me to acknowledge her presence within me, and my concerns for her well being drove with me to meet her that afternoon at a local park at the time we had agreed.

forest path22

We embraced upon meeting, and I immediately felt the same willingness and joy of the embrace of the dream. She excitedly began to relate the tale of her trip to visit a friend, which included getting lost in an unfamiliar area, and being caught in a violent rainstorm. She and her friend had taken refuge in an abandoned farmhouse to wait out the storm. It had been approaching darkness before the storm let up, and it had frightened them both. I said nothing about my dream, and we walked down the path leading to the area she had told me about and which we were about to visit. We spent several hours walking along the paths in the sunlit woods and in open fields. Without any mention to her of the dream, she took my hand, and led me to an overhang with a fabulous scenic view of the mountains in the distance. It was lovely and it felt as though we were closer than before. Stepping down to the return path out of the park, I nearly fell down as I turned to see an image of a sun over water painted on the lower portion of the rock we had just been standing on.

As we sat together on the screen porch back at her house, I told her of the dream and of my certainty that she had been in distress. She listened patiently and seemed to understand that it was unusual, but not impossible that such things could happen. Somehow, we had found each other and were connected in ways we were only beginning to appreciate. She seemed only vaguely aware of a connection between us, and now appeared mildly uncomfortable talking about it. I promised not to bring it up again, and we embraced on parting. We agreed to meet again the next day to attend a family dinner at her parents home. I held her close and kissed her deeply. She smiled and giggled for a moment. The wheels were in motion. It had begun.

The Inner Experience

inner experience

“Artwork by Daniel B. Holeman ” http://www.AwakenVisions.com

“The inner self is not part of our being, like a motor in a car. It is our entire substantial reality itself, on its highest and most personal and most existential level. It is like life, and it is life: it is our spiritual life when it is most alive. It is the life by which everything else in us lives and moves. It is in and through and beyond everything that we are.” –Thomas Merton from his book, “The Inner Experience.”

merton

“We are not capable of union with one another on the deepest level until the inner self in each one of us is sufficiently awakened to confront the inmost spirit of the other.” — Thomas Merton from his book, “The Inner Experience.”

Confronting the inmost spirit of another requires a very particular set of circumstances. According to Merton, unless we are reasonably awakened to our own inner self, we cannot hope to unite with that same inner self in others, at least in any sort of deeply meaningful way. He also suggests that our inner self is not just one part of our being, but rather “our entire substantial reality,” while still existing “beyond everything that we are,” as temporal human beings. What an intriguing thought it is to suppose that our entire substantial reality might transcend all that we are as human beings.

The idea of our inner life being the source of “the life by which everything else in us lives and moves,” seems to suggest the existence of a clear connection between our inner spiritual lives and our temporal lives. If we consider this to be valid as a way of accurately describing the phenomenon within us, then surely the connections we feel to others, whose inmost spirits are equally transcendent of our human nature, must also represent a connection to that same nature.

second gitl song2

http://absolutefractals.com/?page_id=709

Connecting to our own inner life, awakening to the inmost spirit within us, is not a simple matter for many of us. Life in our century has accelerated in so many ways, and the demands of daily life, combined with the deluge of stimuli from every form of media and communication in our day, leaves precious little time for contemplation and the work of awakening to what is both essential and insubstantial within us. As anyone who has been reading along here can see, my own process of awakening has been tumultuous and burdensome, many times requiring what felt like Herculean efforts to sustain my momentum, and there have been many periods when I was desperate to climb up and out of a feeling of despair which nearly drained me of any hope for success and forward movement.

Equally evident, though, appearing often at precisely the moment when I needed it most, throughout many of the years in which this struggle took place, was the almost miraculous presence of other vital spirits. The more I searched and struggled to awaken to my entire substantial reality, the more profoundly the arrival of such spirits seem to affect me, often becoming a lifeline or a saving grace that helped me to hold on, to push forward, or to reclaim lost hope.

johnvick22a

Upon my return to Massachusetts in the spring of 1975, shortly after my experience in the forest, (Deep Forest Vision, 4-11-2014), I encountered another vital spirit, whose arrival in this period of my life sparked the beginning of a flame of awakening, propelling me forward toward an awareness that I still carry within me as I write. As can be true with many such encounters in our lives, I didn’t fully grasp the significance of the connection right away, nor did I have any sense of how it might impact my process of awakening at first. It was clear, though, that this was a compelling spirit, and I became swiftly entangled in a web of emotion and desire that was impossible to ignore. We spent much of the early time together in long, penetrating conversations, exploring the worlds within us, imagining the possible futures that might lay ahead, and, as time progressed, in close personal proximity which became increasingly difficult to conclude when the time came to part.

door33

The intensity of the training assignment at the military base made for a formidable obstacle to distractions outside of the school. Engaged in the principles of cryptography and decipherment of encoded transmissions, the daily grind of regimented and focused learning took all of my energies to maintain and absorb. The numerous technical details and methodologies employed in this training were designed specifically to engage the students as analysts of complex information, and there were no computers or digital devices to assist us. The tools of the training were pencil and paper, statistical analysis, and hard-won experience from years of development and intense efforts of operators in the field before us. The image above is the door to the high security areas, that I stood in front of every morning before entering the hallways to the secret classrooms. It was a sight I would never be able to forget.

windows33

Each morning, we would pass through the security checkpoints, being smartly reminded by the officer in charge to keep our viewpoint looking forward and not to stray from the designated path to our classroom. This was not open for discussion. “Eyes front and keep moving,” was the standing order. The covers on the windows have long since been removed in this image, but the memory of standing at my station at attention until directed to “take seats,” in the cramped and musty rooms of the training areas is still vivid in my memory. This was serious business and you had better keep your focus on the task ahead.

When the class was dismissed at the end of the week, so long as you weren’t required to report for other duties, the local area had many points of interest and options for a young soldier to explore, but for me, the first order of business was to fly to nearby Clinton, Massachusetts to visit the vital spirit who lived there. These encounters seem to break through every barrier placed in the way, and even though they sometimes ran in opposition to virtually every practical and temporal circumstance outside of that “oasis in the forest,” they frequently contained some of the most powerful intuitive experiences of my life up to that point. I was occasionally overwhelmed by their intensity, and very quickly identified and was drawn toward this kindred spirit. There was almost a hypnotic effect to being in her presence. It felt as if I was only truly alive in her presence, and in some sort of suspended animation in between visits.

jhnvky65a

One afternoon driving back from a week of especially intense training, I was overcome by a keen sense of her presence spiritually. It seemed so unlikely to my rational mind that there could have been such a connection between us, and I supposed my reluctance to accept that it was even possible was part of my unconscious doubts, but there I was nearly gasping with a sense that she was in some sort of distress. I had always been fiercely empathetic and sensitive to distress in others, but generally those experiences took place in their presence. This was something altogether different. The pain in my heart on this night was unlike any other I had known. Intellectually I had to acknowledge that I was experiencing it, and emotionally it felt as though there might be some purpose to it, but spiritually where the effect was most severe, I was totally without even a shred of a hint as to how to proceed.

I attempted to call the house, but there was no answer. We had arranged to meet the following day, and I hadn’t expected her to be home that night, but didn’t know what else to do. By this time, I had begun to record my thoughts and feelings in a notebook when compelled by circumstances to do so, and on this night, I wrote the following:

“How shall I begin to describe such immense feelings as those which fill my soul this evening. How indeed, can one put into words, the images and sensations which flow across the chasm of thoughts and emotions? Truly, how could my words do anything but fall short of precise expression? So many times I have struggled to free myself from the grasp of this journey. How many hours have I passed between knowledge and ignorance, retention and loss, comprehension and failing to understand? My heart swirls in a sea of indecision. My heart seems to beg for fulfillment and yet my consciousness warns with each step forward. Never before have I felt such complete hesitance to make a move. The path that beckons is my very life force, yearning to rise and follow.”

That evening, as I reluctantly closed my eyes to sleep, I felt a lessening of this sensation, but awoke during the night from a powerful and disturbing dream. Exhausted and worried, I drifted between wakefulness and sleep for the remaining hours until dawn.

….next time….the dream and the movement forward….

Reflections from Within

clouds water3

There’s almost no telling how love will unfold in our personal lives or as we move through the world-at-large. As we progress through our lives, we all seem to arrive at our own understanding of what it means to love someone. We learn first about love from our parents or primary caretakers whoever they end up being, and often it’s amazing to us as adults what sticks with us through all the changes and stages of growth we go through. In some circumstances, where our lives are most often in balance as we grow, we learn to appreciate the love we are given, and have a fair idea of how to demonstrate our love based on these experiences. For most of us, though, the balance is often tipped in one direction or the other, and it can take a long time to appreciate how other people might differ in their understanding of what it means to love another person.

tree9a

I have often encountered circumstances in my life, where people have inspired me to feel a loving connection in one way or another, but who have a difficult time understanding how it could be that such a connection is even possible. I have often thought, that there should be some guidance in our educational system, particularly when children are approaching adolescence, to begin to appreciate the many different varieties of emotional connection that people feel, and to broaden the definitions of love across the whole spectrum of human interactions. It seems to me that, as a rule, we are far too rigid in our views of what reasonably might constitute a loving relationship between parents and children, amongst siblings, between extended family groups, and between the many different levels of friendship that we encounter as we age. Our best friend in grammar school can still be our best friend in our adult life, or they can vanish from our lives for any number of reasons, and every variety of circumstance can either contribute to the longevity of friendship or make it impossible to continue, just as every other sort of relationship can experience long periods of enriching and enduring affection, or be lost or mitigated by extenuating circumstances.

history of the world

The amount of time in which a life takes place, which includes everything from a few moments to, at times, nearly a century of life, is one of the least important measures of a life. Each of us is given a certain amount of time to live our lives, and none of us knows in advance how long it will be before we must relinquish our lives. This is the very nature of life–uncertainty. In some ways, uncertainty DEFINES life. If we knew about everything that would happen in our lives in advance, and the exact moment when life would end, there would be no mystery, no wonder, no sense of anticipation, no expectation, no reason to try anything. Because life is unpredictable, it is worth getting up in the morning to see what will happen! Life is about potentiality. When we DON’T know what will happen, or how long we will have to do anything, it’s up to us to discover how our lives will unfold. It is always sad, as an observer of life, when we see a life that is, from our perspective, cut short, before it has had sufficient time to unfold in the normal way. But really, each life, no matter how long it is, is precious, and worth every effort to live each moment fully, for however long we have to live it.

E-E-Cummings-curiosity

I am not an expert at anything. I am not a scholar, or a magician, or a superstar quarterback. Even though I attended two universities for more than four years, I haven’t translated it into a successful career or a particularly abundant life. What I can say about my life, given that the measures we normally apply to accomplishment, in my case, are not especially impressive, is that my life EXPERIENCES have been extraordinary. Every memory I have is precious to me. I have been the father to six amazing children. I have served my country in the military, traveled to Europe for two years, and met many extraordinary people. I have experienced great joy, as well as terrible sadness.

longing2

I have experienced hunger, deprivation, loneliness, bitterness, rejection, loss, and just about every sort of unhappiness imaginable, but I have also been a witness to and a participant in spectacular experiences of loving; I have attended feasts, and eaten at fine restaurants; I have vacationed in beautiful natural settings; I have attended family reunions with some of the most fabulous people on the planet; I have been satisfied in many different ways, and cried tears of joy as I held precious newborn children in my arms. As I write this, I am expecting the arrival of my sixth grandchild!

get somewhere3

I could go on, but you can see from just these few examples that no matter what we accomplish in our lives, when it comes right down to it, what we EXPERIENCE is what means the most to us; it’s what hurts us the most; it’s what drives us and what slays us; what we experience is more important than what we accomplish almost always, and all the skills and knowledge we acquire, as vital as these aspects are in helping us to function in and to understand our world, we must BE IN the world and experiencing our lives in order to make any good use of any of it. All of our choices in life, from the smallest to the most profoundly significant, alter the space/time continuum. One of the most vexing questions in philosophy is the issue of free will. If our minds are simply and only the result of neuronal functioning and the basic electro-chemical balance in our brains, then none of us can be held truly accountable for our actions, since we are at the mercy of brain chemistry and the endowment of adequate neuronal functioning.

consciousness

My contention is that while we are clearly dependent on a nominally functional nervous system to interact in a meaningful way with other sentient beings, the delicate balance of brain chemistry and neuronal functionality only provides a platform from which we can launch our lives as cognitive creatures. There are other more subtle and more mysterious forces at work in our lives, some of which we may eventually comprehend and predict reliably, and others that are part of the divine life of the spirit within. The power to alter our lives at any time is within our grasp. We have the means to evaluate and discern which choice is best for us. We can choose to act in our own self-interest, or in consideration of what is in the best interests of others. Depending on our choices, a whole variety of alternate realities are possible.

The dynamics of each unique personal relationship has always been a subject of interest for me, especially since I began to explore the nature of human interactions as they relate to our very human spirit. As we make our way through our lives, we probably encounter hundreds of other individuals through our educational and social circles, but normally only a very select few become particularly significant to us in one way or another. We generally become aware of these connections when proximity permits sufficient opportunity to do so, but proximity alone can not account for the development of close, personal (and dare I say…spiritual) connections, particularly those which endure across great distance and long years. While there are many different foundations for our unique relationships, and much that is not necessarily self-evident regarding the psychology which supports them, the existence of a powerful personal and emotional affinity for another clearly infers a greater degree of connection not explicable by simple biology, psychology, chemistry or mere chance.

Our current social structure in the Western World has evolved significantly in the last hundred years or so, and we are beginning to understand and appreciate the value of our unique personal relationships as part of a broader and completely natural social adaptation, which has been part and parcel of our continued evolution as a species since upright humans first walked the earth.

As the story continues to unfold in Massachusetts, unique personal relationships suddenly become more important than ever……

Awakening and the Fall

the-fall-of-icarus

The Fall of Icarus by Peter Paul Rubens, 1636 Musée Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium

A form seen in the distance
Becomes clearer the closer we get to it.
If a mirage were water,
Why would it vanish when we draw near?

The farther we are from the world,
The more real it appears to us;
The nearer we draw to it, the less visible it becomes,
And, like a mirage, becomes sign-less.

Translated from Sanskrit by The Dalai Lama from the Ratnavali (Precious Garland)

https://jjhiii24.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/transcendent-awareness/

A recent comment by my friend and fellow blogger ptero9 on my recent posting (link above) brought me to consider more deeply the nature of the journey upon which I embarked so many years ago, and upon which I am still traveling, and it pointed to an interesting aspect of that journey which may illuminate some of the darkness which still surrounds it for me, and, perhaps, for some of my readers.

We can often view our relationships with others as both problematical and enriching, depending on where we are along the path which includes them, but many times, it is either in the consummation or in the elimination of those relationships where we discover their true value, and both extremes may prove painful in some way, no matter if we continue to nurture those connections, or find ourselves apart from them. There often is no way to know with certainty, which outcome might serve our aims more readily, and how enduring the pain which we experience in both cases might lead to a greater understanding of ourselves and our journey.

Calm-Acceptance

It is in this context that I began to consider the Middle Way, as described in my previous post, and my investigations, which were inspired by the comment by my friend, led me to consider more deeply, the principles upon which the “Middle Way” is based. According to the Buddhist text, “Setting Rolling the Wheel of Truth,” there are two extremes:

“Indulgence…in the objects of sensual desire, which is inferior…and leads to no good…and devotion to self-torment, which is painful…and leads to no good. The middle way…avoids both these extremes; it gives vision, it gives knowledge, and it leads to peace, to direct acquaintance to nibbana (non-attachment).”

Of all of the experiences which I have detailed so far, the awakening which began in Massachusetts on a sleepy Sunday afternoon so many years ago, pressed me into following a path which included many unusual and startling events, and it has taken me these many years in between to begin to see how it all fits together. Along the path, many new experiences steered me in different directions, some of which were enormously painful, and others which were enriching in ways that I never suspected were even possible. As I progressed on my journey, all along the way, the experience of these extremes pressed me inexorably toward the middle way, although I was not fully aware that it was doing so.

https://jjhiii24.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/transcendent-awareness/

The experience which I describe in “Transcendent Awareness,” was a powerful and emotionally challenging one, but as I reflect upon it, and on many of the others that were similar as I traveled along this path, it seems very likely that they served a greater purpose than I ever could have known while enduring them. As you will see, in the postings which follow, I began to find my way and to arrive at a place where I could attain the “vision…knowledge…and peace,” promised in the attunement to the Middle Way.

buddha-quotes-sayings-spiritual-life

“If Mankind is to achieve spiritual growth, the first essential is that the human units involved in the process shall draw closer together, not merely under the pressure of external forces, or solely by the performance of material acts, but directly–centre to centre–through internal attraction–unanimity in a common spirit.” – P.T.Chardin from “The Future of Man.”

After a meteor shower–a dazzling display in the wee hours of a morning not so long ago, I was moved to write about an ancient connection that illuminated aspects of one in my current lifetime:

“As I cast my eyes skyward, I sense that doing so is something I have done in some previous incarnation. It is familiar in a wonderful way, mysteriously, silently and lovingly, I am reminded of doing so centuries ago. For a moment, I am transported to a time long since past, where the inner knowing of just how it felt to be so enraptured by the sight; almost in a trance as result of concentrating on the sky in just this way. The memory of the pain, being apart from the one I loved, however undeserved that love may have been, and regardless of the pain it wrought, I wanted it no less.

To know love’s agony so well, and still wish for it, if it means knowing, even briefly, love’s ecstasy, is genuine love. The mystery that is love, with all its attendant joys and sorrows, successes and failures, realizations and disappointments, hopes and disillusionment, is one which all of humanity has hoped to solve, in one way or another, since the dawn of time.

I have tried with all my strength to maintain the connection without imposing myself. This has proven to be a formidable task. My ineptitude in presenting my thoughts that convey the deeper meaning of my attention, to bring the interior closer through a direct appeal to the core matter expressed through sensory appeal, has plagued me all along. Once I became aware of the connection, I fell headfirst into the abyss, and barely escaped with my life intact. As difficult as it is to distinguish always between what is true and what is simply desired, between what has substance and what is fleeting, attending to the sensory manifestations of the spiritual core, can often produce a positive energy that illuminates the interior world–and provides a connection to a much greater world of knowledge.”

“Every grain of matter, every appearance is one with Eternal and Immutable Reality! Wherever your foot may fall, you are still within the Sanctuary of Enlightenment, though it is nothing perceptible. I assure you that one who comprehends the truth of “nothing to be attained,” is already seated in the sanctuary where he will gain his Enlightenment.” — from the Zen Teachings of Huang Po

Transcendent Awareness

ImaginedWorld

“The transcendental law, Emerson believed, was the ‘moral law,’ through which man discovers the nature of God, a living spirit…The true nature of life was energetic and fluid; its transcendental unity resulted from the convergence of all forces upon the energetic truth, the heart of the moral law.” — excerpt from The American Tradition in Literature, Vol. 1, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1967

“Undoubtedly, we have no questions to ask which are unanswerable. We must trust the perfection of the creation so far as to believe that whatever curiosity the order of things has awakened in our minds, the order of things can satisfy. Every man’s condition is a solution in hieroglyphic to those inquiries he would put. He acts it as life, before he apprehends it as truth.”— Ralph Waldo Emerson, from his introduction to “Nature.”

With milder temperatures and the blossoming of the natural world underway, I am reminded of years past and the turmoil within me that has always accompanied the onset of Spring. Each time the Earth is in renewal, the passage of time seems more pronounced as the clearly defined changes of the season manifest all around us. All throughout Winter’s cold and extended hours of darkness, we long for the warmth and the sunshine to come. We huddle together against the cold in order to survive. When we first feel the warm Spring air blowing against our faces, and witness the plants and trees begin to sprout their leaves and blossoms, something within us also stirs. Our hearts and minds acknowledge this transformation not only by sensation, but also by intuition.

spring flowers

Somehow, I have been brought to this day and time to fulfill, what must be, some discernible purpose. My heightened sensitivity and enhanced intuitive senses since the events in Massachusetts blew the lid off my steaming pot of consciousness, and I found that I was no longer able to contain the inner struggle. It was a gradual process of unfolding, after the initial burst of energy that one Sunday afternoon, but the flow has been maintained these many years by determined effort to unravel it all. In my temporal world, it seems that life continues to plod along relentlessly. But within me, on rare occasions, particular individuals continue to evoke an awareness of powerful longings, and in several of those instances, it became clear that the consciousness within ME, was connected intimately with the consciousness of the other. It seems, in view of the existence of these intimate connections, that consciousness is a word that describes a transcendent awareness–a manifestation of a non-physical source. By this reckoning, the Universe itself must also be a physical manifestation of a non-physical source. Human consciousness must involve a transformational process through which our transcendent awareness is expressed.

dandelion

During one such experience of transcendent awareness, one connection in particular struck at the very core of my being. Although it seemed on the surface to be a formidable task to reconcile my temporal existence with this connection, I made every effort to maintain the connection, in order to convey the deeper meaning of my attention. In my previous post, I acknowledged the struggle between my heart and mind, trying to distinguish for myself the true nature of the connection, and wrote what follows.

Declaration of Affection

I will never forget the joy and unbridled energy of the first days of our acquaintance. Whenever I close my eyes, I can see you clearly in my mind as you looked on the day when I first saw your face–a shy and giggling gem glittering before my eyes. I remember thinking how beautiful you were; your gently flowing hair surrounding your radiant face and your exquisitely grayish-blue eyes–with a smile that seemed to fill the room with a glow that lingered long after my eyes could no longer see your face. The image of your face will never leave me now.

At first, there was only unencumbered joy when we shared conversation. Your heart and mind were totally open to me. Each new day brought my heart and mind within proximity to a miracle. Your spirit was so dynamic and wondrous, that whenever we spoke, my very life force seemed to tremble, as though I might, at any moment, leave my body and fly swiftly to you. The first time I looked deeply into those eyes, it only took a moment to realize that the world would never again be the same. After several starts and stops, far removed from the everyday routines, when you finally opened your heart to me, my own heart was flung wide open, and pumped wildly as I held you in my arms for the first time. I wanted that moment to last forever.

beginning

The chaotic chain of events that followed made me feel like I was hanging off the side of a moving roller coaster. I can scarcely remember anything from those days other than being with you; as if life began when we were together and was suspended when we were apart. Every encounter with you made me feel intensely awake and alive. After one particularly intense moment of sharing, I realized for the first time, how much you meant to me, and I knew at that moment, with absolute certainty, that I loved you. And yet, even as I contemplated the mysterious swirling hurricane that had become my life, the winds of change had begun to stir. All I knew, was that the feelings evoked by our connection were unlike any feeling I knew or had felt before under any circumstances. When it all fell apart, I was unavoidably altered and shaken to my very roots.

The unfolding of events since then do not fit neatly into any sensible or clear explanation, nor do they seem to lead to any satisfactory resolution. The reality of the temporal world has slowly steered us away from the magical world we had once inhabited, and left us in a twilight world of uncertainty and solitude. How the fibers of our mutual memories will weave themselves into a future cloth is hidden from us now. But one thing is abundantly clear. In any Universe, there could be no greater world than the one that includes your bright spirit. I pray that both of our spirits will endure and remain connected to the wisdom that brought them together one beautiful day, not so long ago.

Friendship and Pain

shaper_of_dreams__by_sea_of_ice

The sun had barely awakened the new day; its first efforts to bring light back from beyond the night had only just begun, but I had been unable to settle down to sleep since just before dawn the day before. My heart and mind were heavy with an inner turmoil, suffering from an enduring doubt, and a persistent heartache that would reappear each time I opened my eyes, even after an abundance of nearly sleepless nights, filled only by a relentless repetition of tossing and turning. The memories of a life lived, of dreams forsaken, and of hope renewed, only to be stolen from me at the height of its promised return, filled my inner world as I endured my deeper thoughts alone; miles away from everything that had come to matter to me.

window

The light that had sparked this hope appeared at a time of desperate emptiness, when I was feeling as though I might survive, but not thrive. Held fast in that place by a twist of fate, I had no expectation at all that my abundant thoughts and feelings might find their voice, and as I lay exhausted in the early light of a new day, I reflected on my human frailty, prone as we are to characteristically human drives, weaknesses, and tendencies. I dragged my battered heart and mind out of my bed, casting a backwards glance at the unmade bed, and saw the very emptiness and disheveled disarray that was my life.

grief23

Sometimes, when your life feels like it is falling apart, a close friend may be all that stands between you and despair. But, when a cherished and close friendship falls apart, whatever else might be happening in your life may suddenly not seem to matter so much.

Usually, there’s no single reason for such a friendship to fall apart. After all, close friendships only happen when there are multiple layers of commonality and affection between two people. Even when you have a bad argument with a close friend, you know that you won’t be angry with them for long. After the dust settles, the first thing you’ll probably want to do is talk to them and make it right again. You may even wonder to yourself, how it was even possible to be so upset in the first place.

Life is not only about just one thing. It is possible, at times, to live our lives in a routine way–almost by instinct–when the days don’t contain anything that rises to a particular level of strength one way or the other, and for a long time, we can almost sleepwalk through them; blissfully unaware that anything might be wrong. But then, when we aren’t expecting it, life can take a turn, for better or worse, and we can either find ourselves in the grips of great joy, or suddenly standing alone, with no idea which way to turn next.  At times like these, the people who matter most in our lives can make all the difference in the world to us. This is when that close friendship really counts. But what do you do, when it’s that close friendship that takes a turn for the worse?

far away looks magritte

As the story unfolded, it became clearer that my heart and mind were struggling badly to work through the chaos and the confusion of what had become a vital part of me, calling for some sort of drastic re-evaluation and some attempt at resolution. Never before had I been so intensely compelled by my heart, and so resolutely restrained by my mind. The tug-of-war within me came to a standstill. The longings in my heart were formidable, but the restraints imposed by circumstances could not be overcome. In desperation, I called for a truce–what was needed was intimate diplomacy.

heart and mind struggle2a

http://messageinabottleblog.wordpress.com/

After a long struggle, I managed to get my heart and mind to the negotiating table. There they sat, arms folded, silent, staring at each other across the table. I began to attempt opening a dialog between them. My logical, methodical, and eminently pragmatic mind made several quite reasonable statements and salient points on the side of stability and propriety. My emotional, spontaneous, and notoriously intrepid heart, threw caution to the wind, advocating a campaign of reckless abandon and unbridled indulgence of desire. Rollicking heated argument ensued.

The terms I offered in mediation were met with skepticism by my mind, and with impatience by my heart. Negotiations seemed to be breaking down, and all my attempts at mitigating the circumstances seemed unlikely at best.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday, my mind was a little more rested and relaxed than it had been in a while, and in a moment of compassion, my heart made an overture to my mind regarding a possible cease-fire. While my mind listened patiently, my heart spoke to two areas of mutual agreement. The first was an acknowledgement of deeply felt and clearly present affection. Although this was primarily the domain of the heart, its existence was indisputable. My mind recognized this aspect of my heart’s argument, and agreed that it was genuine and enduring.

The second point of agreement was the certainty of a profound sense of connection to a kindred spirit, perhaps, even a soul-mate, potentially brought together for some great purpose as yet undetermined. My mind concurred that the connection was real, and while reserving judgment as to the precise nature of it, wholeheartedly embraced the definitive nature of the connection, suggesting further exploration of it. Encouraged by this progress, my heart motioned for a declaration of affection, calling it, “…a reasonable consequence of our recent attainment of a consensus.”

My mind was impressed by the wisdom and the skillful analysis presented by my heart, but countered with a reminder to the heart of the recent change in the frequency of encounters with this kindred spirit, and of the character of the few that had occurred in recent times. My mind asked that these factors by considered in the preparation of the declaration. My heart consented.

….next time…..The Declaration of Affection…

Journey of the Human Spirit

journey-human-spirit-banner

http://bncdance.com/company/performances/a-journey-of-the-human-spirit/

“Once we find the transcendent experience and open up to a greater flow of spiritual energy and security within, something profound begins to occur. We begin to see ourselves and our behavior from a higher perspective, from a viewpoint of our more energized higher self. Our sense of identity moves past the insecure reactions of our ego self and assumes a witness viewpoint, identified now with all of divine creation and able to see our socially defined self with a new objectivity.” — James Redfield from “The Celestine Vision,” 1997

The developments surrounding my experience of what Jung described as”an eruption of unconscious contents,” while poorly understood by me at the time it occurred, set the stage for an extraordinary journey of the spirit. The beginning seemed to be traumatic at the time, and it struck me without warning or my own intention to undertake such a journey, but it felt almost immediately like I was destined to begin it. When the original episode took place, I have no recollection of actually seeing anything in my immediate conscious state, but images figured prominently in the document, which seemed to come in three sections. Most of what I have deciphered came long after the document appeared, and as I will recount in my subsequent assignment to the base in Massachusetts, an extraordinary mystical experience filled in many of the gaps the document contained from being illegible due to the frantic manner in which it was recorded. I eventually incorporated several excerpts in this version that were, to the best of my knowledge, part of the original configuration, but were unreadable when it was created originally.

Dreamscapes #1

It was in a dream one lonely night that first gave me the clue which told me of a life lived in the past–the existence of one unfulfilled life by some cruel twist of fate; some unaccounted for incident that survived the ravages of time–transmitted into the future by an unknown force or energy that permeated my every waking hour. The document was written in a trance-like state, and upon review of the writing afterwards, I realized it was an account of a journey, but not to a place that appeared on any map. The excerpts seemed almost like a commentary by the entity named in the document as Jonas Rice.

The Beginning, The Foundation, The Entrance.
By JJHIII24

The Beginning

Raging seas, darkness, the gap between appearance and reality, and the finality of the good earth.

Emotion has been the first of the significant elements involved in the purpose. An ocean of emotion reflected in the mirror of existence, observable only in the conscious mind inside, invisible to the world.

Years pass and the masses see only the surface. No exploration for fear of discovery. Torturous hours, lingering for an eternity, serve only to irritate and inflame the water’s rage. Pain is washed ashore and left to keep alive the disturbance, while the tide is out. Travel is the only temporary and eventual escape.

Sensitivity increases the spectrum of its effect. It lures and repels erratically, ever changing. Continuity is destroyed, forgotten and flung beyond recall. Destiny is playing his fiddle, inviting, then demanding compliance with his tunes. The weak fall prey and only the strong survive. The moments tell the story; the thoughts display a reality and truth–unacceptable–yet, escape is impossible. The blind go unaware and the sighted are driven to the edge, clinging to the branches of light that only truth can provide. The search appears endless, yet is known to be finite in a reality which cannot be confirmed.

(Consider all that you have learned here and you will find the Beginning of the Path.)

(It began in the year 1770, with the birth of an ideal, the arrival of the correct moment in time–the beginning of an era. The settlers of the new colonies were more than just pilgrims in a new land; they were pioneers in a new world–newborn babes of a destiny not yet realized in its entirety.)

The Foundation

Blackness, darkness, a void–uncertain. Faith flickers in the distance. Defeat is in the air, polluting while defenses weaken, threatening the footsteps. Motivation building a path, shedding an amber light on the doorway to the surface. Time and endurance, hand in hand, break the chains and grapple furiously, transported momentarily to green pastures and blue skies, with the light of day surging through the bloodstream, providing the sword and armor of power, strength, and humanity.

(You are to go forth from this place and seek the Fortress which holds the hidden purpose for existence. You alone are capable of this deed and at this precise moment of your life, as you would not have been prepared to assume the burden of these tidings were it any sooner.)

(Recall all that you are and you will discover what is contained in the Foundation of the Fortress.)

The Entrance

Oh, the joy, the courage and stability. Pause.

Placid sea.
Love rippling.
Its presence, once recognized
Brings sustenance, completeness.
Fullness and solidity appears
As a finely sculptured entity,
Focused to perfection,
Flawless in its detail,
Unsurpassed by any existing structure.
A FORTRESS among fortresses.
Soon to be seen and understood;
Glorious, yet, not divine.

Set apart, protruding on a level far beyond earthly significance. Relating humanly to encountered sameness and varying differences. Strength to friendly, open souls. Menacing to the fearful, the ignorant, and the superficial. Distant from the souls lacking completeness.

(Despite efforts to avoid the purpose, I am compelled to seek it out. Nothing else matters. An overpowering inner drive pushes me toward the mysterious, unknown end, lured to it like the sirens who once lured the great Ulysses. Even now I sense it coming. Distant footsteps echo in the halls of my inner world. It ceases–then begins–and ceases once more. The event of my life is upon me.)

Beginning, Foundation, Entrance documents–© 1973-1975 by JJHIII24

MYSTICAL3

The spiritual nature of the journey of Jonas has now become the focal point of my investigations. The awakening to transcendent knowledge is a most difficult and deeply personal undertaking requiring a sense of urgency that will prevail in spite of the relentless struggle to survive and maintain our daily lives. The leap from the physical to the metaphysical can be the most difficult leap of all, even realizing the potentially profound consequences of neglecting such a vital aspect of our existence. In order to begin, it was necessary to strive toward achieving a level of awareness I had never even imagined was possible. The pursuit of the achievement of higher levels of consciousness is uncommon in our current culture with its emphasis on materialism and the advanced technologies growing exponentially in the 21st century. Ironically, the advances in technology provide a larger number of people with access to the world of information and global educational opportunities, but promote the tendency to provide only the most popular or immediately beneficial of those possibilities, adversely affecting the dissemination of the more long-term essential aspects of those available–aspects which require more time and effort to become evidently as important.

Working To Find A Place To Begin Again

Sunrise-Meditation

Sitting on that hill in California overlooking Monterey Bay was an extraordinary moment–one for which I was also totally unprepared. Life is like that sometimes. We work to find a place for ourselves, searching occasionally in places where we never thought we would find ourselves, and expending efforts that may go on for months at a time. In spite of how diligently and passionately we conduct those efforts, we sometimes find ourselves right back where we started, wondering how it could be that we were so foolish not to see where it was headed. There are no guarantees that diligent efforts will result in achievement of our goals, and even when we are not searching at all, extraordinary moments can occur, for which we have actively searched many times without success.

between worlds

In all my searching, there have been only a handful of extraordinary moments, and each one was worth every effort. But the ones that seem to have meant the most, have been the ones that occurred when I wasn’t looking at all. Recent events have produced some amazing results in my inner world. I have been moved forward and fell backwards; I have been emotionally elated and devastated; I have pushed the boundaries of what I thought was possible, and found myself facing the limits of my endurance. Nothing could have prepared me for the depth and breadth of these experiences, and just as we exhale a sigh of relief when the struggles we face have concluded, so too, must we weep bitterly, when all of our efforts have failed to achieve what we long for so desperately.

keiran oconnor ocean

The only sensible response to such a failure, after we expel all of our most bitter tears, is to begin working to find a place to begin again. We cannot allow setbacks of even this monumental sort to extinguish hope. It isn’t easy to face such personal loss or epic failure, and we should not be surprised when the pain of these experiences knocks us down. If life is to mean anything in the long term, we must persist even in the face of such setbacks. I am still learning this lesson, even many years after my extraordinary year in California. Back then, I was young and foolish, and unschooled in such matters. Even now, as a mature person, with many such experiences, the pain of failure still stings, and the lessons that I thought I had learned I must learn again.

The story will continue…and so will the journey to find a place to begin again…..