I did not find enlightenment under a bodhi tree like the Buddha did.
No, my big spiritual break came from under the redwood trees, as spiritual en-white-en-ment—a concept of my own, spiritually credentialed spoken language.
What helped me get to that point was deep breathing, like breaths in the right direction. While now under a “write direction,” I am putting my experiences into words, once again.
Book It Up
While retracing many breaths back, I recently found myself face-to-face with the very book on breath that I read while living in the Redwood National Forest. It was not a book that I needed to dust off from sitting on a shelf. However, it was old enough to have needed to, considering that it was written in 1960, and it references 1926 studies by the Bombay Medical Union.
I had found the book at a busy homeless shelter, so it had been handled to the point of being beaten down. From my observation, due to addiction and mental illness, I doubt anybody in the shelter cherished the content as much I soon would, as I was there as a spiritual seeker.
I was in the shelter because I was trying to be like the Buddha. At the age of 20, I decided to get rid of all my stuff and leave my home in an affluent area, intending to see through the eyes of the Buddha. However, homelessness wore me down after a few months. I needed a change, thus the reason for going into the woods in December of 2010.
I wanted to step up my pursuit of mindfulness through experiencing nature. My intention was to become spiritually enlightened, but that was easier said than done. The elements of a brisk, California winter were often hard to bear. As my tired eyes widened, while reading The Mysterious Kundalini, by Vasant G. Rele, my already open third eye pulsed over the contents that he recorded.
In the introduction of the book, Rele gives the example of a yogi named Deshbandhu, who stopped his temporal pulse, at will, for a few seconds. That is the kind of willpower I needed, I thought to myself, but in regards to a fast I started. Back then, not realizing how much life I still had in front of me, I wanted so badly to be like a master. Setting the intention for success is what I ended up doing, and therefore I completed 40 nights in the woods. While I was in the woods, I fasted for 30 days, five without water. So rather than stopping my heart, I stopped my appetite, and therefore my digestive tract.
Although I did not intend to stop my heart, what did happen was that I reset my heart. It helped me to let go of resentments that I had been holding on to. In the long run, it made my meditations more psychologically productive in terms of not ruminating. All the neural-pathway clearing meant that there was less rumination over issues that used to preoccupy mind. I did this by taking deep, controlled breaths, many of which were alternate nostril breaths, all in the spirit of activating my kundalini (vagus nerve). It certainly took a lot of concentration and willpower.
On the last day, a dream informed me that enlightenment is found from living, not through suffering. Still, I owe it to that time in the forest to have helped me become more spiritually purified. What I realized is that the Buddha did what Buddha did, so if I want to do what he did, I should do what I do, as a seeker of the existential(ist) wisdom. That meant that I must carve my own path!
After I left the Redwoods, I very much valued my time there, as breaths in the “write” direction. It resulted in me writing my own book, which I chose to call Waking Eve.
Truly, there’s nothing quite like the breath. That’s particularly true about breathing fresh air out in nature. My spirit quest literally blew many of my problems away, with all the big breaths that I needed to reset my (formerly troubled) heart.
Blessed be to oxygen!
Thank you, big breaths.