I came out to Shenandoah National Park with a kind of existential homework: pay attention to being fully incarnate. And there it all was, open to be seen & read & felt & appreciated. All of the beautiful colors of peak and decay, all of the ways one thing becomes another becomes another, all of the gentleness of having a clear, embodied path to surrender to. Look at the leaf: trod-on, bored-through, and fallen, absolutely lambent in the shadows. Look at the acorn's own sun, and the velvety tree-lump. Look at this face, lined and clear, and feel this creaky knee, just as much a part of nature as the fern and the thistle.
Having laid my fire for later, I found a west-facing rock on which to read John Tarrant's The Light Inside the Dark (which Nico lent me), and then stayed to watch the whole of the sunset, rolling out, magnificent, to the applause of all campers: the hammocked ones, and the ones in giant RV's, and the ones in tents, gathered along our ledge in shared appreciation.
Another long, dark night, dreaming, thinking, understanding:
It doesn't make any sense to me to talk about the environment like it's some external thing we enlightened ones can choose to take care of, out of an excess of goodwill. I want to talk about our being, inter being, our life-or-death challenge to actually be here now, cutting through all the wants & self-lacking & banking-for-another-day that make us into locusts on the land.
Right now, can you feel the wanting-places inside you? The someday-places? The I-don't-want-to-go-there places? Can you feel the lush groves, and the charnel grounds? Can you feel what is so tender that even to imagine showing it here, in this world, makes you shudder? That is the environment. The sleepy places and the burning places, the places of rest and nourishment, and the places of ceaseless numb torment. The alchemists' proposal, which is also Jesus' proposition in the gospel according to Thomas, is this: As is your inner environment, so shall be the world. As is the world, so shall be your inner environment.
Become fully incarnate, agree to know what you know and feel what you feel, and then
"Your teachers will be hidden no more, with your eyes you will see them. And whether you turn to the right or to the left, you will hear a voice behind you saying, 'This is the way, walk in it.'" Isaiah 30:20
Your transparent participation in the world, your particular bridge between earth and sky , time and timelessness, will become a blessing on the world. You are a gate through which truth may flow. Open it by inhabiting your body and being completely, so that you can hear the cries and the joys of the world, healing it and yourself, indissoluble.
Julie Püttgen is an artist, expressive arts therapist, and meditation teacher.