For all my years of traveling, what I know is that places, if we allow them to, speak to us physically, spiritually, emotionally, energetically. They offer a presence that speaks to the body, the Soul body–that part of us that expands out beyond the physical form and that eventually allows us to acknowledge we are a Soul with a body, rather than a body with a Soul. Though we come into the world ‘forgetting’ our original nature, our growth towards death is this remembering, this coming back into awareness of the Soul’s vast capacities.
This last week, after leaving the ranch in northern California, I have been perhaps more aware, more conscious of, the expansiveness nature of Soul energy, as I made my way down the California coast–to Monterey, Carmel, and then onto Santa Barbara.
I thought I was going to Santa Barbara to visit the C.G. Jung library at Pacifica Graduate Institute. I wanted to see what was available of The Black Book, the book much of The Red Book was extracted from. I thought I would spend time in the library, in the town. I thought I would connect with certain people whom I’d met over the years there. Instead, I found myself each day heading to the beach, as well as spending time first at Lake Cachuma off Route 154 on the backside of the Santa Barbara mountains. The landscape of dry hills resplendent in emerald green following days of rain were magical. I didn’t know why, but each morning, I would rise and Ruby and I would spend the early morning at the lake, then late morning head to Santa Barbara to the beach–one where I often found myself one of the few on the long sandy stretch, one of the few walking or lying open to the sun, the water, the sky…the sound of the waves breathing in and out on the lip of the shore.
Sometimes, when we travel, we force ourselves to see things that a place is known for; or, if we know people in proximity to a place, we feel somehow ‘obliged’ to connect. One of the beautiful things about this trip is I have done neither of these. Oh, I have chosen to see people, chosen to spend time with individuals, but not in the way I would have only a few years ago, and not in the way I originally imagined I would. Now, I am listening to my body, listening to my Soul body and what it wants, where it needs to go, what it needs to do, feel, experience. This is the path less traveled for so many of us. But a path many more of us are beginning to take, truly allowing ourselves to experience ourselves whole again–to know ourselves first as spiritual Beings, energetic Soul Beings, come to experience humanity, physical form, and our human hearts.
Our Soul body is larger than our physical body–it’s an energetic presence that expands beyond the physical form. It’s the body that senses things, the body that suddenly informs us to ‘Cross the street’, the body that lets us somehow know, ‘No, I’m going to avoid that situation,’ or says, ‘This is the thing to do, this is the place to be…’ Many call it ‘intuition’, second sight, or inspired vision, or extra sensory perception. But the truth is, we all–all of us–have this larger sensory awareness, this energetic body, and it operates through and as us by informing, infusing, the physical body.
Each of us has hundreds of what might be called ‘energy circuits’ connecting us to each other, to the environment, and these circuits infuse our body, hearts, and mind with energies. It has been known by different names in various cultures: prana in India, ‘ch’i’ by the Chinese, the Holy spirit or grace by many Christian traditions, and is what most of us who are more secular call Source energy, life-force. The energy that flows through us from the Universe, that makes us first energetic Soul Beings rather than simply physical matter. The fact is, we are both, and when we consciously attend to, become more conscious of this energetic body that receives Source energy, we know when we know things, we experience intuition and can infuse our systems with more life energy when we are depleted, and transformation and growth occurs more fluidly. But so often, we close ourselves off from consciously being aware of this life force, this energetic consciousness; we allow the mind to over-ride it instead of allowing the mind and heart to work with it.
When we allow our minds to work with this energetic body, we move into symbolic sight, symbolic logic that may not make sense outwardly, but inwardly is as right as right. We allow ourselves then to see our lives in a larger context, a larger vision, map or movement, and it’s then we begin to understand more why we are here, what we need to do, what we came here to learn and why we’ve had the experiences we’ve had, and what will fulfill us at the deepest Soul-Heart level. True. I use the word ‘Soul’, but it can simply be ‘energy’, our energetic bodies, or our expanded heart–the Heart that feels, knows, experiences far larger than the physical organ. To understand its vastness, we need only close our eyes and ask ourselves, “Where in your body can you locate a separate self?” When we really begin to feel/look, this energetic presence infuses the body…
There are many of us who know this energetic heart body. There are even still more of us trying to allow ourselves to feel it more consistently, experience its knowing more deeply, to live in its uncertain certainty and allow it to lead us as we allow the mind to work with it in mind-heart coherency. It requires listening to our hearts, to our bodies, and understanding that while our minds are beautiful organs, the mind is limited to what it has known, to what it can know based upon the past, or what it can learn conceptually, and is focused mostly on our lives in the external world and keeping us safe, productive, externally.
Our mind wants to control our emotions–those energy flows, e-motions, that come in through the heart–either by pushing them down or by trying to control the external environment, which usually translates into controlling other people or shutting them out. But our energetic body, our Soul body, wants us to know those emotions, those energies-in-motion to understand ourselves more, and the internal movement and coherency in our lives. The who and what we truly are.
When I started this trip, I didn’t know why I was suppose to do it, I only knew I was. I know I’ve said this in every post, but it’s true. I didn’t know where I was suppose to go except ‘west’. I didn’t know, and still don’t know, where the trip will ultimately lead me if anywhere but to greater self-understanding. But I have come to trust the many gifts of listening to my Soul’s desires, its directions. I have come to let my listening lead me over the land, across the country, and to allow myself to trust how long I’m to stay in each location, and the where-next-ness of each move. What I knew when I left Woodstock, New York is that the journey was going to be long enough to make me uncomfortable, long enough to require, ask me, to trust this knowing in a much deeper way, and to stay with it, in it, and allow my mind and body to grow accustom to its rhythms, its heart and its own fluencies so that I could assist others as they come in touch more deeply with their own knowing.
It has not always been easy.
It is not easy to explain to people, my family, and friends, “I’m not sure where I’ll be…or why I’m going where I’m going…or if I’ll have enough support…” And fear sets in some days, some moments in a day–the fear that I’ve somehow lost it, the fear that I’ll somehow end up homeless, etc.. But I breathe through the fear, the uncertainty, and try to come back to being present–right now–while also feeling into the next step. I have been in most of my life pretty responsible. I still feel I am responsible but in a very different way. Speaking to a colleague who is both an artist and psychotherapist, we described this journey as a kind of ‘trust walk’, a kind of blindfolded feeling, trusting, forward movement.
And so the morning I left the 5,000 acre ranch in northern California that had so graciously opened its doors to me, I simply knew it was time and that I was headed south. Two days in Monterey and Carmel–Ruby running in her joy body on Carmel Beach, and then to Santa Barbara, or I should say, to Santa Barbara County, as I stayed too on the east side of the mountains that run down to the sea. The Santa Ynez valley that was just coming into sudden profusion of yellow bloom amidst a luscious emerald green.
I have had a long history with Santa Barbara. For years, in my twenties and early thirties I would visit a Zen Priory there, frequently staying and training with the Zen Buddhist Prior from Shasta Abbey, Reverend Jisho. I can still feel the mornings waking in the guest room with the orange bed spreads and sliding out in the hushed dawn light to slip quietly into the Zendo and onto my zafu for the morning meditation period, and then the recitation of the kama sutra of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisatva of Compassion. Kuan Yin.
Afterwards, there would be breakfast and walking Max, the priory’s public relations officer. A dog–part shepherd and part collie–given to Reverend Jisho by Shasta Abbey Abbess, Reverend Master Jyu-Kennett. Max was terrified when he arrived—he’d been terribly abused and the San Francisco SPCA had been having difficulty placing him, but Reverend Master received him and gifted him to Reverend Jisho. Max hid under the sofa in Reverend Jisho’s living quarters for days until he had his own large crate, but in the larger areas, he’d shy behind doors, under the table, around corners. But slowly, he came to trust–risk being in the open with visitors, risk walks outside the priory yard, risk playing in the backyard, and then, just like that, he was welcoming guests–known and unknown–at the priory door. So blossomed back into his own Being, his own wholeness. He was a great teacher. For all of us.
The priory is no longer there. Reverend Master Jisho Perry, after a time at Pine Mountain Priory in southern California, now resides at Shasta Abbey as Chief Monastic Instructor. I can still see him so clearly in his brown habit, rubbing his hand over his shaved head and looking down into the distance as he chuckled, laughed, preparing to point out the way or the conceptual obstacles I managed to create inside myself as I made my way through my own emotional barriers and circumstances. That is what a good teacher does—helps hold a space and helps you avoid, if they can, the boulders, the cliffs, the sharp objects as you make your own way into wholeness and the truth of who and what you are. The container is both formless and formidable.
So each morning when I rose this last week, I sat, I listened. I listened to my Soul body, asking, “Where?” And then to Lake Cachuma and then the beach I would go.