Walking down an animal path from which there are no signs or parking, I unexpectedly find myself in a field of diverse wildflowers. I know which one to look for … the pungent Sagittarian colored one. There were many to choose from, but when you are going to take life it is important to have discretion.
The first discretion is to make sure whatever you are taking is in abundance; which it certainly was here.
The second discretion is to never take the strongest, healthiest individual.
But the main thing is to spiritually ask for which plant to take. To be organically guided to the plant of which you are about to create relationship with.
Walking further and further, I finally see the one. It is glowing in the sunlight and was in abundance.
I knelt down to gently touch this plant … “is it ok if I take you?”
I feel that it is.
And with tentative tears, with my trowel I begin to carefully remove the top layer of grass and moss to replace when I am done. Then I dig through the precious fertile soil to volcanic rock. This beautiful plant is tenacious with it’s fleshy roots growing between the rocks and expanding these spaces over the course of decades.
Like an archaeologist carefully peeling back layers of time never seen with human eyes I slowly move the ancient rocks as I forage for roots.
As soon as I remove one rock, there is another. I use my fingers to trace the direction of roots and feel I am touching the muscles, veins and sinew of the Earth. As I go deeper, I pull the stones out of the cool soil as if delivering a baby from a womb. I can only place rocks gently after such an experience.
Finally I have retrieved all the medicinal aromatic roots with dirt embedded in fragrant sap on my hands. I smell just like the plant of which I was searching. Now before me is a hole just large enough for me with rocks stacked around the edges. I can sit in this cool nest of rock and dirt where there was once another being.
As I dig roots I am taken back to an embodied memory of what our ancestors did daily. I connect to the wisdom of plant medicine and nourishment derived from nature. My mind quiets and I am present with my environment as the crow teases me upward. Naturally I chew on the bitter root as I dig with its alkaloid medicine evident upon my tongue. My conscious perception begins to change. My movement slows down. My peripheral vision expands and colors brighten. The animals stare me in the eye. I see things for how they truly are. Things I don’t usually see. I became different after digging and eating the roots of our ancestors. The altered state of consciousness was heightened beyond placebo such that it made me wonder if I had poisoned myself; this was not a plant known to have any psychoactive properties. I quickly realized that when you put your hands in the Earth, you become attuned to the subtleties around and within. All elements of Nature will change your awareness if you allow it. The wind, rain, snow, lichen, moss, soil, rivers, smoke, trees, animals, insects, fungi and of course plants. We owe our life to these people.
Before I leave my rock nest, I tell the plant of which I dug and the Earth of which I dug from:
“soon, I too will return to the soil”.
Words cannot describe my connection with Nature.
Some people think saving the world is futile. Some think the world doesn’t need saving. Others doubt their ability to do any real change and resign themselves into impotence. While others think that mere positive thoughts is enough. And some think that other people will save the world
In my mind, I would rather die trying to help the Earth than to reflect on a life lived without that purpose.
We cannot assume someone else will protect our wild lands and make sure that our Earth with soil, water, air, biodiversity and genetic integrity will remain pure and unadulterated.
I know my purpose in life is to be a spokesperson for nature, to give voice to that which cannot speak for itself; as well as to be a protector for nature and fight for what cannot fight for itself.
Curiosity, Memory and Creativity.
For years humanity has been trying to define intelligence. Perhaps that is a mark of intelligence … trying to define intelligence?
We have epistemology which is a branch of philosophy concerning the theory of knowledge. We have IQ tests and EQ tests (Emotional Intelligence). We have the theory of multiple intelligences which is very close to giving a better picture of what intelligence is where it splits intelligence into the following categories:
While categorizing different forms of intelligence is wise to accommodate the diversity of human experience, it still doesn’t address the core elemental building blocks of intelligence.
In my experience with a variety of intelligent animals such as squirrels, crows and border collies, as well as with young children, I have found that the number one determiner of intelligence is the level of curiosity. Curiosity is usually manifested in playfulness. Or sometimes … how much trouble they get into! How much do you engage with your environment? Do you listen for the faintest sounds? How about looking at things and really observing the details? Do you smell things? Do you touch things? When was the last time you tasted something that wasn’t food?
Who does these things every second of their wakeful consciousness? Babies and toddlers. It is also at this time that we grow the most in intelligence. We are most genius when we are young children.
But in thinking of all the manifestations of curiosity, it alone means nothing without memory. Indeed when we discover something about our world or ourselves through play and then forget what we learned, it doesn’t help our useful intelligence. The intelligence of border collies is obvious when they remember complex verbal commands. The intelligence of crows and ravens is evident when they remember to use tools. Having a powerful memory is an important tool for the next element of creativity. Of course remembering language and how to use tools doesn’t happen without first a curiosity to observe of experience it.
The last leg of our stable tri-pod of intelligence is creativity. When seen in conjunction with curiosity and memory, creativity is expressed by relating divergent subjects in the mind. By creating theories and inferences. When reading someone’s body language (a Bodily and Kinesthetic category of intelligence) we can make a connection that when people cross their arms and have wandering eyes they are likely disinterested in what your talking about because of distraction, disagreeance or disrespect. We make this connection by joining the visual cue with past experience. When learning about the physical structure of mushrooms and the symbiotic relationship between mycelium and roots through the subject of botany we can also creatively ponder the potential parallels with what we know about our own brain through the subject of psychology. From there we might infer the mycelium web in the soil — which looks strikingly like the neuronal connections in our brain — acts as a brain for the botanical world. Through further research (as outlined in the book “The Hidden Life of Trees”), science has discovered this to be true; trees warn other trees to build their defenses for threats such as pests and disease. Whereas our electrical impulses travel many inches per millisecond, the electrical impulses between trees via the mycelium web travels around a third of an inch per second.
Creativity cannot happen without memory and curiousity.
These three critical elements of intelligence can be seen in their relationship to the three parts of time: past, present and future.
Curiosity is only experienced through the present moment. We cannot play or gather new information in any other part of time except the infinitely small point called now.
Memory is obviously a mental construct of the past which does not actually exist in reality except for what we recall in our mind (and the unconscious collective library [reference Carl Jung]). It is nonetheless an important element to use what we have experienced in previous present states to evolve.
Creativity is analogous to the future. It it is a powerful tool to transform multiple memories of what we have experienced into new methods / ideas / actions.
The past is about what happened, the present is what exists in experience, and the future is infinite potential. Creativity lies in the realm of infinite potential.
Through the act of creativity we are existing in a state of presence and indeed being playfully curious and thereby creating new memories of which will spawn new creativity to be experienced through presence which will create new memories and so on and so forth is the cycle of intelligence.
How children learn language through mere osmosis illustrates their genius. The next question is why does our intelligence — as defined by my three foundational elements — seem to fade as we transition out of young childhood? Many people would say it is because our brain becomes less plastic. But I contend that it is our societal paradigms that shut down curiosity … the first step of intelligence. Sometimes when children ask questions their inquiry is not honored and as this happens they begin to ask less questions. Children who explore are often told that it is too dangerous to venture that far. Climb a tree then be told to get down. Draw on the wall then be told to stop that. Dig a hole in the yard for it to be filled. Acting weird then told to be normal. Singing and told they can’t sing. Playing piano and told to play it quieter. Dancing and told they look foolish. The antidote to the erosion of curiosity is the encouragement of playfulness and exploration. To give them a non-judgemental sounding board to tell their story and cement in their memory the powerful experiences of curiosity to serve as the stemcells of creativity.
The Unification Of The Three Elements of Intelligence
Meditation serves as a reset to our intellectual system. What often happen is we get bogged down with cyclic unnecessary thought patterns and paradigms. It is rigid programming which cripple curiosity by trivializing introspection, play and meditation. It disables creativity because we tell ourselves that we are not creative or good enough. And it doesn’t make room for new memoirs that could prove old biases wrong. Through meditation we can observe and deal with these harmful thoughts and paradigms by focusing on being the observer and consciously shedding light on the parts of our mind which are normally obscured.
An exercise to get in touch with your inner genius is to envision yourself as a child. What do you as a child do? Look up and look down. Look near and look far. Observe the functions of your body starting with your breath and heart rhythms. Touch … everything. Listen as if a dog waiting for it’s beloved human to come back home. Taste the leaves on trees, the grass, your hair, the air. Smell the scents and aromas seeing if you can directionally locate the source. Approach life with full sensuality as if reality itself is your lover.
Then tell your story to a compassionate loved one. Perhaps a good friend or mate. If you don’t have someone you trust enough to expound on your sensualization of life then write it down at length describing all the details leaving no stone un-turned. Telling your story helps commit experience to memory.
Then enter a state of no-mind. Go for a walk, sit in silence, pick up a musical instrument, hold a pen on paper, dip a brush in paint … without expectation observantly exist. Creative insight will organically spring forth as does the emergence of migratory birds acting as one or as rippled patterns on the beach. The key to creative success is to not force, doubt or expect anything. Intention is good though. Intention to prioritize time for creativity. Intention to solve a problem. Intention to make music. But no expectation.
What Is Wisdom?
Wisdom comes from intuition; a deeper part of consciousness. Something so deep that is drops out the bottom of our consciousness and joins all other consciousnesses. It is what Carl Jung refers to as the collective unconscious, what I call the collective library of experience, and what some people call the Akaishic record or some other variant of the term. Wisdom is instinct. It is not learned but rather accessed. The level of access is dependent on how clear the channel or strong the connection is. When we get out of our mind and understand that our essence of existence is as the observer (something that exists even without thought or action), then we can more easily access wisdom.
Creativity is a beautiful third element or equinox between intelligence and wisdom. Creativity pulls from both our personal intelligence (curiosity, memory, creativity) as well as the deep wisdom that transcends our separateness. When doing improvisational music, it is true that I am using a certain amount of memory and curiosity, but I feel there is also an element of pulling from something that is beyond me.
If intelligence is a three-sided pyramid, wisdom is the space around the pyramid. Or perhaps the bedrock under the structure.
Wisdom transcends all elements of intelligence. For example, divining with a dousing rod for water in the ground is something which does not entail memory, creativity or curiosity. Having a gut feeling about someone transcends intelligence. The way animals intuitively know what plants heal is wisdom. Having a synchronistic feeling at the same time as a distant friend across the world transcends intelligence.
What do we do with this understanding of intelligence and wisdom?
Once we begin observing and understanding these things we can grow our intelligence and expand our channel to wisdom leading to a more effective and harmonious life. We can remove the blocks to curiosity, utilize tools to increase memory and allow ourselves to be creative. We can learn to identify the states the are more conducive to wisdom flow and prioritize those states more often.
Knowledge is not understanding and words are not the truth.
Understanding happens when you feel the bulldozers rip sacred soil as you feel your own flesh being torn apart. When you shed tears as you witness a dying bee cling to a clover flower with such true and authentic Love. When you take your shoes off and feel the roots growing from your feet into the earth. When you witness a beautiful sunset. When you see the clouds as your own thoughts. When you have seen the soul of a rock and consciousness of a tree. When you see all plants, animals, streams and mountains as your equals; as your brothers and sisters. When you encounter a rattlesnake on your path and tell it “I am sorry for what we have done, please forgive me.” When you nod in acknowledgment to the bird in the sky. When you smell the freshness of rain as the plants smile with glee. When you caress the delicate lace of ferns and grass as if gently touching a lover. When you melt into oneness and nothingness with nature. When you let down your ego. When you surrender. When you save worms from sidewalks. When you sway with a tree in the wind and marvel at lighting storms. When you no longer fear nature but accept her. When you realize how loving nature is. How kind plants are to give us fruits and berries.
Only when you shed tears and tremble with pain as you witness clearcutting, dams, mutagenic-pollution, tainting of purity. Where you long with all your heart the chatter of coyotes instead of barking dogs, the whisper of wind instead of zooming cars, the smell of fresh rain instead of dryer sheets, the sight of stars on a dark night sky instead of streetlights, the rolling sensual hills instead of terraced development, soft fertile soil colored with lichen and moss instead of concrete and asphalt
There is a better way.
There is a better way.
And it does not involve intellect. It involves wisdom. It was our intellect that got us here and it will be our wisdom that will save us.
I deeply enjoy volunteering. But of all my volunteer work, leading young people through the forest was one of the most fulfilling experiences.
I don’t often have opportunities to interact with young people, but when I do, I revel in their geniusness, lack of societal programming and how open their minds are. I showed them edible / medicinal plants, various animals, the importance of tree snags and nurse logs, talked about mycelium being the brain of the forest, did an observation / awareness exercise silently using their eyes and ears, talked about earthing, guided them on visualizing the perspective of a tree, a bird, a cloud, a mountain, talked about nature stewardship, forest succession, the dangers of smart phones etc etc etc. We went for a several mile hike in the Columbia Gorge. I learned just as much as they did.
While in the house, I found an insect on it’s back slowly moving it’s legs in futility. I investigated and found it to be a dying bee too weak to right itself. I thought “if I was going to die I would want to be outside on the coolness of the ground under the warmth of the sun”. So I gently scooped up this little bee and went outside to put it on a clover flower. It was too weak to hold on so it tumbled off. I picked some clover flowers to place near it. The way I saw it embrace that flower brought tears to my eyes. This is the definition of Love. The way a dying bee loves a flower. The way the flower loves the sun. The way I love the bees and flower. This is Love. If only people knew this Love at a more conscious level.
Transmutation is the action of changing or the state of being changed into another form. To put it another way, it is the alchemy of converting lead into gold.
Pain is inevitable in our life. We all experience pain in some form or another. However pain can be toxic to our spiritual and physical selves. One of the best ways of relieving yourself of pain is to write … and then write some more. Writing often takes the pain literally out of you and onto paper. Often when we remove the parasite of pain through writing we can look at it for what it is and often find it so trivial that it vanishes.
However there are some pains that are so entrenched that even extensive writing is no remedy. I recently experienced pain in the form of grief, sadness and anger over the destruction of a natural area of which I considered a sacred place where I derived much wisdom at an early age and throughout my life. Hearing and seeing the daily bulldozers and rock-crushers demolish a sacred mountain of which I view as family was too much for me to handle. Overwhelming pain caused a negative change in my body which manifested in physical issues such as grinding the teeth to inflame wisdom teeth and having bad accidents while working.
What was my solution?
To channel this destructive energy into something productive. To make this bad thing in my life a catalyst for something good. One of the most influential and positive things in my life was that I was unschooled and given freedom to explore the subjects that I wanted to learn. I remember this would have never happened if it wasn’t for a horrible fourth grade teacher which caused me to become so depressed my parent’s took me out of school.
Likewise for the pain of the destruction of wild-lands, I channel this energy into being a catalyst to learn environmental law. I bought myself a stack of environmental law books and enrolled myself into an online course. Knowledge is power and every time I get a twinge of painful anger I direct it into learning environmental law. I went from being disempowered to becoming empowered. If you transmute pain well enough you even become grateful for the cause of your pain. Grateful that it acted as such a catalyst for positive change in your life.
While on the topic of transmutation, we can also transmute sex energy. Sex energy is simply creative energy. This creative energy is one of the most powerful spiritual “compounds” that propels us through life. It is what can create the most beautiful and harmonious things as well as be the source for war and destruction. Too often this creative energy becomes stagnant, builds and causes issues if is repressed / suppressed. It is the equivalent of a pressure vessel full of steam with no outlet. It will cause destruction whereas if harnessed properly it can drive an entire locomotive. The key to a most fulfilling life is to not suppress this energy but to cultivate it and channel it into a variety of creative outlets. Often the act of being creative brings forth even more creative energy to use. Beyond making love with a loving partner, using spiritually fulfilling ways, we can also channel this energy into other creative outlets:
Let it all out and “Die Empty”. At the end of life, will the unexpressed stories / ideas / art / dance within your mind die with you? Or will you express all that is within you?
The more you flow and more you can.