|Featured Columnist – Meditations
The first hint of autumn is in the air. There’s a subtle change of light and atmosphere, and more tangibly, a new breeze in the treetops. The first, lightly anchored leaves are falling into the creek.
A single large, brown sycamore leaf parachutes onto the glassy, emerald surface of the stream. With exquisite slowness it drifts a short distance downstream, its palmate sections frozen upright in place, evoking one of the great sailing ships of old.
When it reaches the aperture in the rock wall that some human beavers have built, the leaf sailing ship is instantly sucked under, and is gone. That is the way of beauty.
After an hour at the secluded spot in the middle of town, the observer ends, time ends, and even questioning ends as the mind grows reverentially quiet.
Walking the half-mile back to the car, the stillness is palpable. The largest of the magnificent old oak trees that line the narrow park road, with gnarled branches that reach right down to the brown grass, is completely motionless.
The stately tree seems to stand completely alone as I sit at the bench near the parking area. All the more so because its leaves and branches are stock-still though a breeze swirls around one and rustles the leaves of other nearby trees.
One wonders, does the awakening of a meditative state make a place reverential, or does it reveal the reverentiality in nature, or both?
Clearly, it requires a quiet, sentient brain to perceive and feel the infinite mystery and awe of nature and the universe. On this planet, it’s only humans that have this capacity, though few people awaken it.
Buddhists like to believe that all life is sentient, but that just confuses the issue. Sentience, which is the condition of being consciously aware, almost certainly belongs only to Homo sapiens.
With regard to self-awareness, mind, and consciousness, we are essentially talking about the same emergent phenomenon. Do any other animals have self-awareness?
Other than humans, only chimpanzees and orangutans do not persist in reacting to their reflection in a mirror as if they were seeing other primates, but perceive that “their behavior is the source of the behavior depicted in the image.”
Does that mean they have awareness of self in the wild? I doubt it very much, though chimps and bonobos probably have incipient self-awareness, just as proto-humans did a half million years or more ago.
Of course awareness of self, and self-awareness are two different things. Only a small minority of humans today are self-knowing, which is the true meaning of self-awareness, whereas every human has an ego and identity, which are the earmarks of awareness of self.
‘Higher thought’ is the most powerful adaptation nature has ever evolved. It is so powerful that most humans don’t even see it as an adaptation, but take it as a reflection of the nature of the universe. Even so, why does thought preclude awareness of the sacred?
Let me tentatively propose that there is an intrinsic intent in the universe to develop brains capable of awareness of the cosmic mind, which infuses the universe. It appears the brain had to evolve ‘higher thought’ in order to have the capacity for awareness of the sacred.
But the conundrum is that ‘higher thought’ then becomes a tremendous impediment to awareness of the sacred. And that impediment can only be removed by self-knowing, which goes far beyond so-called self-awareness.
(Thought devises all religious doctrines, traditions, texts, and perspectives, though the great religions seem to have had some degree of deep insight and direct contact with the sacred by their founders. No religion contains the truth however; the truth is beyond words and perspectives, whether Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, or whatever.)
So the very movement of thought blocks the awareness of and contact with the essence of nature and the universe, and the ground of the universe—what people call God. And the busier the mind, or the more filled with knowledge it is, the more removed it is from the infinite wellspring of sacredness.
Is the true potential of a human being to be prisms for the infinite energy, intelligence, and sacredness within and beyond the universe? One feels so.
Though prisms vary in size and capacity to refract light, we are all capable of being one. It is self-knowing that opens the pathways to the divine.