The mountain challenges me to be strong. It demands the physical body to surmount the height, the cold, the thin air. It stands there, solid as a structure. It asserts that I have a structure to meet it. In high altitude, there are rocks and more rocks. Bone meeting density confronts one’s survival, and incites the will to make it. This is inherently human. Survival. The plants and animals will to grow, push through and thrive are evident.
The warm mineral water, on the other hand, relaxes me. It melts me, gnaws at those places that are tense. It insists on dissolving my structures. Water brings me back to the undifferentiated. The sensual is enlivened. The natural wakes up within. What gets in the way of this ease comes to the surface. The water with its minerals finds the crevices within my joints where the toxins still hide, finding residence. It draws it out, like a pail into a well. It sucks it out and along with it any tentacles of resistance within my muscles and viscera. In Taoism, water cuts down mountains.
I lay there realizing that even my structures of endurance had been washed away. I lay as a puddle. The water washes away my identity. Yet if I am a puddle, how will I endure? Water beckons me to surrender. No it takes my surrender away. My muscles’ definition escape me. What I am left with is this emptiness that has a side of barrenness. When I am alone in the wide open land, the ephemeral becomes my friend. The ravens and the owls listen to the rhythm of my breath as I share the same grove of trees with them. There is a mutual call and response. The coyotes recognize my scent as we share the same watering hole. The bright moon seducing the dark stormy clouds into illumination press all remnants of my longing for connection. The rabbits, the birds, the flies – we enter into a dialog. The meandering dusk and the pollen on my bare feet become letters in the alphabet of the elements and the elemental world I am part of. There is no separation.
In such depth, the shallow comes to the fore.
From the wildness, I transition back into domestication with a hint of indignation. The strangeness of being removed from the eloquence of the elements, the scents of the wind, the sound of the evening’s hum, the aliveness of each blade of conifer reaching out towards me…I miss the aliveness missing within the cage of dead materials comprising a house. I am separated from the elements. The comfort deadens me. I wither into rapid forgetfulness. Has this become the disease of man?
From this place of separation, I glimpse the perspective of conquering the natural world as to be owned. To eat and regurgitate it without any thought of re-generation is unfortunately the ethos of the contemporary world. It has little thought for the future children. It doesn’t know of respect or of listening to the songs of the wind or the stories of the stars cast upon the shadows of the trees. It knows not of the conversation that transpires between the streams and the heart of man. When I breathe in the mountains, the trees and I are mutually happy. The kiss of dawn enlivens every cell reminding it of its purpose.
In the houses of men, however, plastic bottles made of petrochemicals are filled with more petrochemicals that are supposed to clean everything that is stored in the house. We wash our hair and our skin with these same chemicals. We spray deodorants and perfumes on ourselves to rid ourselves of our natural scents. We put cosmetics on our skin as masks to hide who we are. There are green lawns that are watered with pesticides to make sure only one kind of grass and not weed grows there. It is fenced with wood and beautified with a deck that is treated with more chemicals. Swimming pools are kept clear with more chemicals. The water we drink is contaminated with chemicals. And what of the food? If not organically grown, it is genetically modified and altered so much that the taste and colors inherent in fruits and vegetables are drained and strained. Its nutritious value decreasing, unable to deliver what our cells need to be vital and healthy. Poison is a way of life to many of us. It is disturbingly called the “good life” and the rest of the world aspires for it. It makes our cells curl and dehydrate its membranes. We then call it cancer, but fail to make the link to what we consume is related to that big C word that everyone dreads. It overly stimulates and eats our nervous systems until we call it ALS, Parkinson and MS and still we as nations systematically spray pesticide over our cities and farms. In the last three months, I had friends from three different cities around the world (New York, Bangkok and Miami) tell me that pesticide was sprayed by plane to combat mosquitoes.
It deeply saddens me that we voluntarily choose these contaminants over a life that is sustaining and life giving. I have pondered as how these distortions abound. Are we simply that ignorant and refuse to see the effects of our collective actions upon ourselves and our world? It was only over 70 years ago that my old friend was in Nepal with his plastic containers and the Nepalese were too eager to swap their heavy wooden ones for his lighter plastic ones. It was even shorter (less than 30 years) when I remember India switching from clay tea cups in trains to plastic cups. And now we have big islands of plastic in the Pacific Ocean. We are choking the waters of our life and creating mountains of non degradable trash.
We exchange the poetry of interdependence for the convenience of decreased quality of life and quicker path to dying as a planet. Wishing to be healthy means addressing our global wellness as well. Being fractured and accepting brokenness as the status quo are not the answer. We are at a loss because we each are losing. What does it mean to find solutions that we can gather the broken pieces and mend back into connection? We each can do something by choosing where we use our money when we buy products. Consumerism is here and be a wiser consumer. What do you buy? You can change your behavior. We can widen our paradigms to shift into less of a separation and more of caretakers of our world and the future generations. We can choose to wake up out of our denials and see that it is not just about the “me” but the “we”.