Understanding is not conceptual, and therefore cannot be passed on. It is an immediate experience, and immediate experience can only be talked about (very inadequately), never shared. Nobody can actually feel another’s pain or grief, another’s love or joy or hunger. And similarly nobody can experience another’s understanding of a given event or situation… We must always remember that knowledge of understanding is not the same thing as the understanding, which is the raw material of that knowledge. It is as different from understanding as the doctor’s prescription for penicillin is different from penicillin.
Understanding is not inherited, nor can it be laboriously acquired. It is something which, when circumstances are favorable, comes to us, so to say, of its own accord. All of us are knowers, all the time; it is only occasionally and in spite of ourselves that we understand the mystery of given reality.
~ Aldous Huxley
Religion is not about accepting twenty impossible propositions before breakfast, but about doing things that change you. It is a moral aesthetic, an ethical alchemy. If you behave in a certain way, you will be transformed. The myths and laws of religion are not true because they they conform to some metaphysical, scientific or historical reality but because they are life enhancing. They tell you how human nature functions, but you will not discover their truth unless you apply these myths and doctrines to your own life and put them into practice.
~ Karen Armstrong, The Spiral Staircase
The past year or two have been, for me, about learning. Some has been experiential learning, but a great deal of it has been an acquiring of knowledge that I’ve not yet put into use. Morning and evening yoga practices have helped with some understanding of the things I’ve learned in yoga teacher training and the Gita class. As noted in the Karen Armstrong quote above, to apply what you have learned you have to put it into practice. I move, I breathe, I chant, I sit, I meditate. All good practices that have become devotional or spiritual in some way.
A week or so before coming home, I thought about how to put some of the things I’ve learned into practice. In particular, the exercises and meditation from the Spiritual Ecology class. I feel like that’s where my form of spirituality lies (it’s certainly my way into the spiritual), and what I’ve been learning through the Emergence Magazine courses is quite compatible with yoga without being a form of appropriation or cherry-picking spiritual beliefs and practices. I’m all-in on the yoga (although I don’t think I will ever call myself a yogi), and I am all-in on the spiritual ecology.
As I think I mentioned to you back in April, David Abrams, author of The Spell of the Sensuous, was one of the guest speakers for A Deep Dive Into Spiritual Ecology: Part 2. He suggested a series of exercises for us to practice that I’ve tried to put into play in my life, but it’s so easy to get distracted when I’m busy exploring the world with little boys who are not interested in meditative practices at this point in their lives. And who can blame them? There is so much to see, touch, smell, taste, and listen to. Now that I’m home and can go out and about on my own, it’s time to practice.
Mr. Abrams suggested that we begin by stepping outside and testing the idea that “everything we perceive or sense is a sensitive presence in its own right.” He continued with:
That each thing has its own unique openness and spontaneity, its own interior animation, its own pulse, its own dynamism — albeit a dynamism that may be outrageously different (in a whole range of ways) from your own dynamism. The challenge here is actually very subtle: feel your organism simply opening, allowing something to quietly reveal itself that has always been present yet has been hidden by unnoticed assumptions. Hence it’s more a dropping away of assumptions rather than taking on a new set of assumptions. And notice, as you undertake this experience even just for a few minutes each day for (say) a week, notice if it does not quietly heighten your senses, loosening your eyes and your ears and your skin from a kind of slumber. Notice if you begin perceiving the things around you more vividly, with more intensity, more subtlety and nuance. Notice if you feel the things around you, and the land itself, is becoming more richly present to you, and if you are becoming more present to the place…
I feel that, experience that, when I’m out and about with the camera. You might think the camera is a distraction. There are times when it is. It’s a distraction when I’m with others and should be paying attention to them. It’s a distraction when we travel someplace new and I’m trying hard to capture everything, as if that will somehow hold the place within my memories (it does, but I think I miss things in the process). It’s not a distraction when I’m on my daily walks, covering ground I’ve covered over and over and over again. I can’t explain why. I can only tell you it’s true. Perhaps it has to do with the flow, of being able to pay attention to the smallest things because my body and feet know where they are going.
In the Mandala Magic (art journaling) course, Julie Gibbons talks about getting in touch with your ancestry and the land on which you live. If you are not indigenous to where you live (and many of us are not, particularly here in the U.S.), she has suggested that you get to know the land beneath you. Begin by rooting yourself there. Learn the history of the land and the original people. As part of the art journaling course and my yoga studies, I have been delving into my ancestry/lineage, reading the stories and myths, and learning more about why I am where I am. Combining that with David Abrams suggestions might lead to some interesting experiences.
Now that I’m home, I’m looking for ways to incorporate the new practices, catch up on some of the already in progress practices (art journaling — which I did not do while away), and continue with the old practices that enrich my life. I’m trying out a new routine, switching things around to see how they will work. It feels good to shake things up a little. I was in a bit of a rut after a year and more of pandemic practices/routine.
More reading and writing, I hope, will be part of this new routine. Especially the reading. I have piles of books to read and a reading list that is longer than my life will ever be. I am currently reading The Edge of the Sea by Rachel Carson and the prequel to the Hunger Games (I don’t read a lot of YA books, but did like the Hunger Games trilogy). The Rachel Carson book is so beautifully written. Summer is on its way here this week (temperatures will be near 90 by Saturday) and this would be such a good book to read while at the beach. I don’t think I will get to the beach until maybe next week. Tourist season, which never really ended, has picked up because of the approach of Memorial Day weekend. It will be best to wait a week or two to avoid the worst of the crowds.
I reckon that’s enough from me for this meander. Thank you so much for visiting and rambling around with me. As you can see, life is in full swing here on the Wabi-Sabi Ranch. We even have veggies ready to pick (kale, arugula, rapini, and some other green I keep forgetting). If you have time, join me out at the Point for sunset this evening. There are some clouds out and about that might make things colorful. Sunset is scheduled for 8:09 PM. It’s warm and buggy, so dress accordingly.
And please be safe, be well, and be kind. ♥♥♥
A few of the 10,000 reasons to be happy: 1,771) Finding a good “sit spot” where I can go every day and take in what is around me. 1,772) Becoming more embodied. I’ve spent a good deal of life up in my head. 1,773) Seeing the first red-spotted purple butterfly of the season, just outside the window as I type. 1,774) Putting things into practice. 1,775) Experimenting with a new routine.