The smaller of the two creeks, just beyond town (and soon to be enveloped by it), is running full and strong again after the winter storms. One can almost forget that for over three months it was a stream of stones.

The hillsides are green, and the wildflowers have begun to appear in numbers, especially poppies and lupines. Despite a cold, stiff wind, I take the full loop on the bike, passing flat fields in view of gently ascending hills, with higher, secondary slopes in the distance displaying patches of snow.

I sit under a big sycamore facing the fields and the canyon beyond town. The city¹s viewshed¹ has been marred by a string of monster houses that the city council allowed to be built along the ridge in the last few years, but the volcanic cliffs a few miles away are still a stupendous sight on a clear day.

A kite is hovering over the fields. It¹s displaying one phase of its distinctive flight pattern, fluttering its wings in place for 30 seconds or more about 200 meters away. Suddenly it tucks its wings back and parachutes to the ground in an arc of pure gracefulness.

The kite disappears for some time after that first sighting. But as the mind spontaneously falls silent in passive observation, it reappears and hovers directly in front of one across the stream. In a meditative state, nature leaps forth, and the world recedes.

Why does the human mind have a seemingly infinite capacity for illusion‹what Buddhists call delusion? Why don¹t we tend to see things as they are, rather than see what we want to see? These are central questions of both philosophy and spirituality.

Many Buddhists make what philosophers call a category mistake, by saying that because the mind inhabits an illusory world of its own making internally, the manufactured world outwardly is also an illusion. However, the inner world and the outer world, while inextricably related, are two very different things.

The human mind generates the divisions that give rise to the realities of this terrible world, but wars, poverty, and ecological destruction are very real, and cannot be denied by labeling everything illusion, or maya.¹ The mind fabricates the illusion of duality, of me vs. you,¹ and Œus vs. them,¹ but the conflict and poverty that ensue are all too real.

Our mental worlds are illusory, not in the sense that they don¹t exist, but because when symbolic activity (words and images, memories and associations) is primary, one does not see what is. Even so, the outer world that the mind and hand construct is very real, both physically and in terms of the suffering it often causes.

Looking without the filter of symbols and memories, nature and the world are seen as they are in the moment. Then one does not contribute to the divisions and delusions of this world through one¹s own distorting mental and emotional activity.

The human mind has a powerful tendency, buttressed by the habit of thousands of years, to do two things: separate and store. At bottom, the human adaptive pattern rests on these two abilities, which have enabled our manipulation of nature, and the accretion of knowledge.

In actuality, all life is like the ocean. The waves aren¹t separate from the sea, and currents are inseparable from the undersea. In the same way, things¹ such as trees aren¹t separate from the earth.

Nature can teach, but one has to know how to listen. Because most people aren¹t self-aware, mindful about the workings of their own minds and hearts, the distinction (not duality) between nature and the world is lost, resulting in untold grief.

Point to something and ask a young child whether people made it, or whether nature did. Most children have no trouble making the distinction, and yet most adults blur the world and life together, blinded by pursuing things of the world.

Humans everywhere are becoming increasingly overwhelmed by our cognitive and emotional accumulation, reflected in an increasingly frenetic and lifeless global society. Inner accretion, projected and reflected outwardly, is shrinking the space of the human mind and deadening the feeling of the human heart.

By whatever name one gives it, one has to learn the art of meditation. To my mind, that word essentially means the unwilled gathering of attention through passive observation, which ignites the movement of negation.

When one observes all streams, inward and outward, without division, the stream of thought effortlessly ends. Then there is simply seeing and being.

From that inexhaustible stream of life, all that is good flows.