She shut her eyes to see
a universe within, stunned
at her own second coming
Here, she was the artful creator;
here, she reigned
by her own decrees:
she imagined joy, and thus was joyous
as a newborn god, enthralled
by making herself
Nature is the most practical metaphysicist. Every morning I sit outside, quietly observing. Today I was awe-struck by a multitude of interesting things happening in my backyard, all speaking to the complexity and yet deep practicality of nature.
I feed the squirrels, chipmunks, and blue jays – they all know me and approach me in different ways. My town is a nice, clean and quiet place, but also known for a high rat population (apparently some junkyard was disturbed and dispersed them). Having had several pet rats in my life, I enjoy watching them dig up worms and eat from the feed pile. We leave out simple deer feed that attracts just about every animal around. Today the baby rats were out as they are just getting big enough to romp beyond the nest. Then I saw a squirrel carrying its fairly small baby back to its tree – it’s odd for October, in Canada, to have such a late litter. I’ve noticed evidence of second or even third litters happening here this year.
Other things caught my interest — we had good winds last night and a huge branch has fallen off our maple tree. Doves were walking along the ground with their wings outstretched. There has been a hatch of little midge-like insects – again, a little odd for October.
But nature is clever. She knows.
I have always been happy to suspend my beliefs in order to dance with opposite concepts, such as the Everything and the Nothing, the Infinite and the Instance, Self and Other, good and evil, or spirit and physicality. With some investigation it is apparent that seemingly intractable dualities are intricately, deeply connected – perhaps just different expressions of the same thing.
The Q’ero shamans of Peru have a word for this. I was thrilled to discover their concept of “yanantin”, which is the harmony of complementary dualities, because it speaks to me at my core, and I’m sharing these words in case someone else would be just as enthralled.
I think that situating myself in reality means being aware and present within the whole picture: the yanantin that encompasses both what seems “real” to us and what doesn’t. The truth is everything is real. (Remember the physicists who are happy to say that in an infinite universe, everything you imagine and everything possible must actually manifest in physical reality.) Dancing with opposites situates us in the bigger picture of potential and wholeness.
As Hillary S. Webb writes in her excellent book, “Yanantin and Masintin in the Andean World” (a book she was kind enough to send me at a difficult time in my life when I legitimately couldn’t afford it):
“Similar to Chinese Taoism, Andean philosophy views the opposites of existence (such as male/female, dark/light, inner/outer) as interdependent and essential parts of a harmonious whole. Because existence is believed to be dependent upon the tension and balanced interchange between the polarities, there is a very definitely ideological and practical commitment with indigenous Andean life to bringing the seemingly conflicting opposites into harmony with one another without destroying or altering either one.”
At its best, the concept of yanantin expands our awareness and challenges us to go deeper, to think beyond dichotomy and live in the balance between body and spirit. Yanantin can teach us to be in better relationship with things like giving and receiving, ego and selflessness, and so much more.
Grounding yourself, the idea of coming into your body and being aware of your energy connected to the Earth, strikes me as a useful discipline, but I’ve always had trouble with it. I situate my body and energy within the infinite Everything, and so placing my feet on the ground and remembering that I’m on the Earth seems limiting. I want to be consciously aware and present, but within the greater cosmology of all-there-is, not merely this rock I’m living on (despite my love for Earth).
I like to remember that within infinity, you are always at the centre. Centre-points make excellent places with which to connect one’s energy and they provide as firm a ground upon which to stand as any rock beneath your bare feet. So I extend my energy outward in all directions, present in an infinite space. It brings me to awe, which I find to be a useful state for expanding conscious awareness. I breathe with the universe and my entire body – each infinite point upon the planes of my skin – receives and bestows the pure energy of Being. It is an exchange and a merging of the Being-as-an-Instance and the Being-as-the-Infinite.
Can this be comparable to the typical process of grounding? I don’t know, but I prefer it.
By changing your perspective, you can make new models of reality emerge. The benefit of doing this is to prevent an unbalance of mental “closure” – a word Kenneth Smith uses in his book “Shamanism for the Age of Science” to describe being stuck or too rigid in one way of thinking. Closure is like fundamentalism in that it closes off your capacity to see potential and transform or awaken yourself to new levels of knowledge. So I have a few exercises to offer that I find useful, which can open you to new experiences, new insights, and expand your awareness in all directions, pushing against any limiting boundaries you’ve perhaps unnecessarily accepted.
These exercises are actually fun – to me, anyway – and they stimulate your imagination and challenge your attachment to particular models of reality. They are meant to tease your perceptions of being, creating room for new possibilities.
- Walk as if you are not moving forward, but actually turning the Earth with your feet. When your feet glide over the ground, push a little and imagine that you are bringing the environment directly in front of you closer, rather than walking to it.
- Imagine reality is merely what you see, exactly as YOU see it. For instance, the distant trees are really that small and objects are fully solid (not full of mostly-space and atoms). Perhaps the Earth now seems flat; or try to come up with a new experience of perception other than the examples I’ve listed.
- Consider: everything you can imagine must be real. What does that imply? If everything you imagine must exist, can you therefore imagine a spirit, decide it must be real, and have a whole conversation with them that must also be real? If you imagine a future self that can communicate with you, are the thoughts you imagine your future self saying therefore real?
- Imagine yourself pulling the future against you in order to experience the present moment. You are not helplessly flowing forward along with time – you are pulling time past you.
After these exercises, where you go next is up to you, but I think it creates a prime stage for self-reflection and creative work.