A good friend had a sticky note on the glass door of his North Boulder office that said:
“what you are seeking is seeking you”
I’ve treasured that insight for many years. Since I keep seeking, it’s pretty clear this process of waking up is quite a paradox. You name it, striving for abundant prosperity, wanting the next best high-tech gadget, better still – seeking to make a difference in the world. Doing, doing, doing, we find ourselves seeking adventure, thrills, stimulation, sensual satisfaction… looks and sounds familiar, eh, those human emotions and experiences that make us feel fully alive. In more contemplative moods, I discover myself seeking inner and outer peace, comfort, tranquility, and ease; yearning for that feeling of belonging. When I completely surrender, that striving impulse dissolves. What a relief, no more struggle to get something, or go somewhere, just resting in awareness of the absolute.
The challenge humans face is learning how to authentically surrender. Stopping a busy mind is easier said than done. This is where teachers, guides and the mystery of nature enters the equation. What if we completely surrendered to the Tantric embrace of nature? Not seeking, not wanting, not needing anything. Nothing to prove, nothing to gain, nothing to win, nothing to lose. Imagine being fully surrendered to the present moment, resting in awareness, trusting we are utterly and completely connected to the entire cosmos – no separation. Try it, you’ll like it! In the awareness of deep surrender, resting in the present moment, the heart naturally opens allowing one’s worldly contributions to be more graceful, creative and ultimately effective.
In a time of personal crisis, some twenty plus years ago, without “knowingly” seeking, I was introduced to Sacred Passage and the Way of Nature and the teachings of John P. Milton. I took the leap and immersed myself in a Wilderness Solo in the Baja California del Sur peninsula. That was the beginning of a magical journey, learning to honor, respect and love nature unconditionally.
During six nights and seven days of complete aloneness (all oneness) on an isolated beach next to the thunderous Pacific Ocean, the Earth literally breathed me back to life. I experienced renewed vitality, creativity and aliveness that had slipped away in the midst of my personal drama.
Many solo vision quests, teachings and transmissions later, I am absolutely convinced that our culture would benefit tremendously by experiencing nature centered rites of passage. On the practical level of how our society functions (or not), my observation is that most of our ecological difficulties and accelerating environmental degradation is caused by our perception of separation from ourselves, one another and especially nature, leaving us isolated and alienated. The direct result of this belief that we are separate from one another and everything that surrounds us is damaging to all of our relationships. This obscuration of our perceptions creates a bunch of uninitiated adolescent humans wandering around in aging bodies. Too often, we act like proverbial bulls in a china shop. Think about it, it is a sad state of affairs. It’s hard not to have a judgment about it… We turn 16 and get a drivers license, or depending upon the state, when we reach 18 or 21 years old, we claim the “legal right” to get sloshed in the local pub – that’s about it for our culturally sanctioned “rites of passage”.
In previous times, all of our ancient ancestors, in every region of the world, experienced a rite of passage that was nature centered, designed to honor the Earth. This formal ceremony and time honored tradition prepared our relatives to fulfill their life’s purpose and assume adult responsibility for the well-being of the whole community – all of life. In North America, among native people, this practice, of course, is known best as a Vision Quest. There are many variations of this ancient initiation ceremony respectfully designed and appropriately modified for city dwellers and modern folks.
I’m further convinced there is a deep human yearning to connect with the mystery and wonder of nature. Witness the phenomenal success of Avatar, which touched this yearning. Humans are increasingly disconnected from the natural world, especially among urban dwellers that make up nearly 60% of the entire world’s population. In “developed” nations, the number of people living in cities is now over 85%. In 1800 only 3% of the world’s population of 1 Billion humans lived in urban areas. We now have 400 cities of more than 1 million people and 20 cities with 10 million residents or more – no wonder we’re profoundly disconnected from the rhythms and cycles of Nature and the Earth. We are also blinded by our perception of being separate and superior to all of life, even our own inner life remains unknown to us. Here is an interesting fact to ponder – in Bhutan, where His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck King has decided to evaluate the “success” of his country on the basis of Gross National Happiness, rather than Gross National Product, only 9% of Bhutan’s population lives in cities.
Now, back to Forest Tantra and Sensual Surrender – John P. Milton the founder of The Way of Nature offers an excellent definition of Tantra:
“Tantra is the thread like continuum of being that weaves together the cosmos”
Imagine this thread being softer than silk, interconnecting the continuum of life, arising from source, representing the healing power of nature. During my most recent passages, one in the gorgeous vision quest valley of the Chiricauhua Mountains and the other in the Sangre de Christo Mountains, the tantric thread was palpable. I was inspired to write a poem, doing my best to surrender to the truth of the interconnected, interdependent nature of the universe. A poem came to me after careful investigation and some effort to calm and stabilize my mind. Of course, it is paradoxical to appreciate that it requires special effort to achieve effortlessness; meditating to arrive at “non-meditation” – the natural nature of the non-distracted “uncontrived state”. The realization came that all I really had to “do” was allow my awareness to rest in awareness. Moving through Shamata (calm abiding); Vipasyana (analytical & Insightful meditation) to Mahamudra (alert, mindfulness path to liberation). I completely dropped the urge to concentrate on all the wonderful practices, and simply surrendered to the moment of pristine awareness, embraced by precious wilderness. Immense gratitude for brief “glimpses” filled my heart. No big deal, it was simply the freshness of morning sun arising, gliding along the nearly invisible strands of light that awakened my senses on the fourth day of my solo, and this poem flowed.
Forest Tantra / Sensual Surrender
“A tapestry of silk, gracefully woven branch to branch
heaven to earth, invisible to most
subtle pulsing energy, glistening in morning glow
awakening endless flow, delicately slow.
Connecting light to light, life merging with life
one heart soaring on infinite wings
listen as the deeply rooted forest
drinks the sky”
There are two essential qualities that make all the difference, when we go into nature: Love and Respect. When we rest with an open radiant heart (one of the 12 principles of Sacred Passage) and give our genuine love to nature, it is returned ten fold!
onward with courage!