I awake to the Song of a Native American flute. Today is the day of my vision fast. Today I set out to die to my old ways and bring back a fresh vision for my people.
I pack my bags and walk to the threshold circle. It is a circle of bones and rocks. At the center stands a staff which Larry pulls out of the ground unplugging the naval of the earth. Two women light sage in a shell. One by one we enter the circle from the east. We are smudged with sage fanned by feathers all over. They bless us with quiet prayers, praying for our safety and a good trip. We sing a song,
We are one with the infinite Sun,
For ever and ever and ever. x2
Kiano, lenye lenye mawate, hiana hiana hiana. x2.
We are one with the infinite Earth,
Forever and ever and ever. x2
Kiano, lenye lenye mawate, hiana hiana hiana. x2
I hike out from base camp to find my power place; down the small canyon, over the big ridge and down the backside above the steep slope into the next big canyon. With a tarp tied to two trees I make a storm shelter. I prep my gear and walk a ways to a rock overlooking the canyon and sit in silence.
Why am I here?
A butterfly appears to my left and lands on a flower in front of me. What is it doing, is it eating the leaves? No, only the worms eat the body. The butterfly’s sustenance is nurturing life. But why must the Caterpillar totally transform to become what it is destined to? Is it ill-equipped?
A tree cracks and breaks behind me; I hear it hit the ground. I feel a deep growl from within my stomach. My senses are heightened to dangers both outward and inwardly at once. I feel as if I am dying, yet somehow simultaneously as if I were being born …
I walk along a long abandoned road, heavy with decisiveness. Why the hell am I doing this?
I find a hole in the ground where a tree had been uprooted. It had left a depression in the shape of a perfect cross. According to my compass, the cross-shaped hole is aligned perfectly to the cardinal directions. “This would, hypothetically of course, be a great place to die, wouldn’t it?” I say jokingly.
I take a walk further down decision road. Two large fallen trees block my path. What blocks me from making this decision? I wonder. I am here to die to my old ways but cannot seem to bring myself fully to it. I push the trees off the road. I eventually come to an old dead tree bowed over the road from the heavy snow of some invisible winter I cannot see. It too blocks my path, or rather requires something in order to continue moving forward. I see that I can go around but that I will have to get off my path if I do. I very much wish to remain on my path. I can go under but I will be required to bow.
I hate to bow, I hate to submit. I hate to yield. I would rather chop you up into a thousand bits and spread your sawdust beneath my feet than ever bow to you, oh Tree of Death. I could rip every twig from your branches and branch from your limbs and limbs from your trunk and trunk right out of the ground and cast you down this mountain! I am ready to kill you now even as you are already as dead.
Yet did I not accept this possibility when I came here to this place? Was not this part of the task for me of walking down decision road? Is not to be born also to die?
But this is MY road! It suits you oh Tree to be dead for your death will be inevitable if you will not move out of my way. This is a road that I, and I alone, must walk as I decide whether or not I am willing to yield to… to death??
What madness is this? Ironically, I cannot move off my life path ending in death any more than you can move off my path, being dead as you are. Damn you or damn me for being in your way, my way or whoever’s way!
Bombs can be heard in the distance. Across the canyon a military training base sings its songs of war and turmoil. Stupid f** automatons, always following orders , off to fight silly wars for silly tyrant kings who use them as pawns in their game. Don’t they see, kings never fight their own battles. Do they not know that there would be no war if there were no soldiers to fight them? Passive little children in adult bodies. Yet am I one who can show people a better way? Can I show them how to make decisions and think for themselves? Do I take responsibility for my actions? I must! I must! For I see that they are me! They are my people! Even now, they beat the war drums and march along my side into battle in this fateful hour before the storm. They shall know peace, yes, for I shall not stop until I have found the peace that comes not from being the king who fights his own battles. Truly, I may face steep consequences for disobeying the orders of my inner tyrant. Already I feel the threat of dishonorable discharge and isolation chambers. If I do, truly life as I know it will be over. Yet asleep at the wheel as such, is not my life already over? How can I honestly even say I have been born?
Shall I not die then? But then why have I come? Why have I come here to the NW of the cross, a canyon NW of base camp, NW of Texas to Washington?
I am the king who sends others to war in my projections. I am the soldier who blindly seeks to transform the whole world out there so as to avoid the pangs of my own inner growth and transformation. I am the ox which grows in size but not in wisdom. I am the one who pushes the lever in circles and at the end of the day am still in the same f** place.
It is I who sit on the side of decision road unable to move forward on my path, unable to bow to the inevitable. I am the Caterpillar who eats at the body of the World Tree; transforming the outer world into me. I am the Ouroboros who in it’s ignorance devours it’s own tail. It seems I see the world, not as it is, but as I am.
It is time to leave the waters of passion and folly and stand on my own two feet, breathing the air of purpose into my lungs. It is time to own who I am and where I am going. From the way I walk, to the way I talk, I will love this world as it is, without trying to change it or transform it. Let it give birth to itself! As I give birth to me. But I know that to accept the world as it is I must first do a harder thing, accept myself.
Oh body, I have abused you in the sun, in over training, in self pity and kicked you around as a dog for problems entirely unrelated to you. I have judged you and choked you, pushed you past your limits. I have made you breathe fire and smoke, poisoned you and wasted you away in sedentary life in front of screens and behind wheels. I have been awful to you and yet you are still here, healing and blessing me, even now as I starve you. Thank you. I love you.
Psyche, I have misused you with drugs, entertainment, over-stimulation, fast paced lifestyle and complexity. I have not allowed you to be a gift to me, to notice the scenery, and have led you into making hasty judgments. You have been left vulnerable to attack and harm, blinded by the darkness of ignorance. I have used you to escape growth by projecting your inner judgments out onto others and by making you judge things as personal although they most assuredly were not. Still you are with me, blessing me with more sanity and perceptiveness than I deserve. Thank you. I love you.
Mind, I have made you a blind king, stirred in your depths until you are as unsettled as a raging hurricane. I have ignored your wisdom and neglected to drink from your wells of knowledge. I have been mindless as if you were already gone. I let the dim light of ignorance and darkness substitute for the bright light of knowledge and wisdom. I have turned away your countless offerings of growth for fear of the unknown and change. And yet you allow me to know anything at all. This baffles me. You still allow me enough will power to come here and do this work. I will become the one who appreciates you and who blesses you with all he does. I will choose knowledge over ignorance, sacrifice over self and responsible action over neglect so that you may be filled with the sweet fragrance of virtue. I will water your pastures with mystery, curiosity, and wonder so that your wells of knowledge become an everlasting spring which empowers you to be mindful among the mindless. Thank you. I love you.
Spirit. I have hastily written off your paradoxes as contradictions, been ashamed to need your mercy and grace, used your flames to burn down villages, and refused to receive your gift of life fully. I have shunned your wisdom and love, hidden from your fullness and turned away from your fire’s warmth, for fear of getting burnt. I shall honor you and jump into your sacred fire on this day. I shall become a man who shows in his actions and words that it is you who pump all hearts and move all things. I have boxed myself in with walls for skin, made cars for legs and blinded myself with books for eyes. I have filled my walls with stuffing and consumed all the books l can read in 29 years and still have not known the abundance and plenty you have given me in this life. Your rivers flow through my arteries and your mountains my bones; your creatures my nature and your food my flesh. I have looked for you in vein but now shall know you in my veins. Thank you. I love you.
My shadow has moved into the NW direction. It is about noon time. I must keep my agreement to lay a stone on the buddy pile. I go and do my duty. On the way back, I return down the canyon a different way and find myself again facing the same dead tree but this time from the other direction down the old road. I now know that it is time to make a decision and figure out what is the big deal for me in accepting my own death that even the gesture of bowing under a dead tree is such a process.
As I think, I notice two birds off to my right, playing and chasing each other around a tree. Should they live forever? I wonder. I would get tired of them surely, wouldn’t I? Is it not good that they eventually die and new birds are born? No, surely they should not get to live forever. Should I then? Would not people get tired of me? Would I not get tired of myself? I wondered who would miss me, if anyone. Then I wondered why I even care if others appreciate and would miss me when I do not appreciate anyone or anything myself!
I again stand at the gate of inevitability. Only now from the other side. All it asks of me is a simple bow and I can continue on my path; a gesture that really amounts to nothing…. Yet it is not nothing. It is most certainly something, at least to me in my inner landscape. In this inability to accept what the tree represents, it is most likely I who amount to nothing. Acceptance of death is not for the weak of heart and surely it’s gold is not for the unworthy. Yet I wonder what the medicine of death is? What lesson it has to offer me?
I will bow, to you oh tree. I will carry my cross and sacrifice my pride at the pearly gates of your underworld for I want to know your medicine and gain entry to your mysteries.
I slowly approach the tree. Suddenly it starts to move. An eye appears in the crack of it’s bark and a voice speaks to me saying,
Tree: So it is you again. I thought you hated and feared me? Did you not want to have nothing to do with me? Have you still come to find a grim reaper?”
I: I do not fear you death, for I know that while you are quite something, you are also nothing. I have seen and know that on the other side of you, the road goes on. I may die to my pride and many an old habit of thought, word and action, but will continue on my path the same.
Tree: I see, and who is it then who you shall be when you cross under?
I: Well, I hope to become one who appreciates life.
Tree: … [raises it’s eyebrow.]
I: Look, I know that you are going to come for me anyway one day and will surely be taking everything from me whether it is given freely or not, so… I yield to you for I must. Death and taxes, right? Aren’t they the two things most certain in life? Well what the hell happened to life and liberty, huh?
Tree: My son, Death and Taxes are NOT the same. Neither are Life and Liberty. In fact, you may find that you will have to sacrifice what you call ‘your life’ to truly find Liberty.
I: [My mind is blown by such a riddle. I am speechless.] Alright, well I’m going to head on my way now, is that okay?”
Tree: You are asking me if that is what you want to do? Is it not you who stands on Decision Road?
I: Right. Okay then. I’m going under.
I duck low and make my pass under the arched tree. I am still baffled by the riddles and wisdom of Death. After crossing, I turn to give a little bow to show thanks and respect. But as I start to bow, the tree suddenly shouts,
Tree: Stop! No… please. Do you not see now – One Who Appreciates Life – it is I who bow for You.
A deep mystery comes over me and a chill climbs up my spine. My hair stand up a little on end as I look now at the bowed tree. Something is happening. What, I am not exactly sure. All I know is, I have made it; I have crossed under.
~ Nick Reed, One Who Appreciates Life
Podcast #9 – Sacred Economics, Rites of Passage, New Book Release
Video and audio below.