Five elements of life

November 28, 2020 – Denver, USA

Dearest Shraddha (and Dinesh),

As I write this, both of you are in your separate worlds of silence. Shraddha, you are asleep and dreaming in the arms of the sacred hills in Umbria. Dinesh, you are probably sitting quietly in morning meditation near Bangalore. You are both free from the responsibilities of an ordinary day of work, such as I am here in my American life. In our dreams, we are free to roam a fantastic countryside of giant red bell shaped  flowers with delicate wings. A countryside where small dark haired children dressed in white tunics teach goats and frogs to sing madrigal songs of the 15th century. We are free in our dreams and in meditation from the routine, the ordinary, the pressures of our daily jobs, of family, of friends, of politics, religion, and everyday obligations. In our dreams and in meditation, we are free to be who we are or who we could be when we learn to surrender. We are free from our ego and crazy monkey mind. We are liberated to be or to become Atman. Our higher Selves. It isn’t always easy returning to samsara from our dreams and our meditations. Our ego is a long string attached to this earth and to the things of this earth. It needs, it wants, it desires, it attaches, it clings, and it clutches whatever it perceives as something that can make it free. Money, fame, power, prestige, and a material world of things, things, things.

Yes, Shraddha, I agree with you that we are given the immense gift of freedom when we learn to connect – or re-connect – to the “heartbreaking, wonderful beauty of creation.”  It is like going home after many weeks, months, or years on a long road where it has rained everyday and the road is muddy and full of ruts. When we reconnect to creation, we return to a home with a warm fire, filled with light, and the profound comfort and silence of the soul.

I have always felt completely at home in nature. Traveling into the forest as a boy, I felt like I was leaving my artificial self, my everyday skin, outside and putting on my real skin in the forest. I remember sitting by a small stream, many years ago, and meditating on its song of trickling, splashing, and gurgling. I could smell the breath of the cool water, the rich odor of leaves and soil scattered about me, and the mineral fragrance of large rocks as they warmed in the sun. I suddenly thought to myself that I am not separate from this natural world, but very much a part of it. I was composed, created, from the same elements: earth, air, fire, and water.

My body, I thought, was composed of amino acids, protein, calcium, iron, magnesium, and wonderful carbon. That is the earth. Later, when I first read Henry Thoreau, I smiled at his quote “Shall I not have intelligence with the earth? Am I not partly leaves and vegetable mould myself?”

I also knew my body is composed of over 60% water. Thus, I am water.

Sitting by that stream and quietly inhaling and slowly exhaling I knew I was dependent on air to live. Thus, I am air.

Lastly, I knew I was a warm blooded mammal who has an internal furnace metabolizing calories to create energy. My internal temperature is 98.6. I am fire.

This realization connected me to the living, thriving, glorious world around me. I was no longer apart from my environment, I was part of the environment. The American writer and naturalist Henry D. Thoreau observed that nature is the externalization of the soul and that: “Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.”

I do still think that viruses are neither good nor bad, but just another expression of the natural life in all its grand symphony of manifestation. We are all – each and every small bacteria, peaceful elephant, splashing water, fluttering oak leaf, strong human hand, momentary snowflake, ripe strawberry, green patch of moss, wilted rose petal – all are in relation to each other  and to everything else in this “heartbreaking, wonderful beauty of creation.”

“What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.” What lives within each and every one of us is each and ever one of us. We are the family of man and woman. We must learn to trust that deeply profound connection, relationship. If we do, only great things will occur: “The smallest seed of faith is better than the largest fruit of happiness.”

And to conclude, this beautiful passage of Rilke’s Ninth Duino Elegy:

Earth, isn’t this what you want: to arise invisibly within us? Is it not your dream to be one day invisible? Earth! invisible! What is your urgent command, if not transformation? Earth, you darling, I will! Oh, believe me, you no longer need your Springs to win me: a single one, just one, is already more than my blood can endure. I’ve now been unspeakably yours for ages and ages…Look, I am living. On what? Neither childhood nor future are growing less. . .Super-abundant existence wells up in my heart.

Much love…

Jim

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