Martin LeFevre: The World Turned Upside Down
The World Turned Upside Down
Meditation, to my mind, does not begin until I die to everything: problems, self-concern, and questions--the entirety of the past. Can the psychological death that occurs within one during meditation be the baseline of daily life?
The word ‘meditation’ doesn’t matter, and I feel no attachment to it. Call it ‘altered consciousness,’ undivided awareness, observer-less observation, or whatever. Its basis is the brain’s capacity to attend to its own movement with such alertness and intensity that the mind not only falls silent, but the past falls away.
Of course, short of illumination, the personal and collective accumulation (what we normally call consciousness) returns and dominates the brain and mind. But an increasing evolutionary pressure on human consciousness is selecting for another type of consciousness altogether.
If so, these mini-deaths of the old consciousness are both intimations and preparations for radical change, both within individuals and human consciousness in general. Whether a revolution in the evolution of human consciousness is imminent, or years away, I’m certain that without it we will not survive and realize our potential, as individuals or a species.
Therefore what ends the stranglehold that the past has on the mind? Neither religion, nor reason; neither faith in God, nor in man. Simply, when the mind, or rather the brain, observes the movement of thought/emotion without division, and the entire river of consciousness is seen.
Then it isn’t ‘my river’ and ‘your river,’ but the polluted river for which we are all tributaries. To be sure, some streams are darker, murkier, and more stagnant than others, but the vast river of the past belongs to each person through whom human consciousness flows. Except for the illumined few, that means everyone.
Perched in a secluded spot at the far end of the campground, it’s a splendid site in one of the finest campgrounds I’ve ever seen. It is located in an old gold mining area at nearly 2000 meters elevation, where hydraulic and deep shaft mining were employed with ruthless efficiency to extract the ore. The grim life of the miners is evoked in a poem in the museum that doubles as a ranger station.
A massive granite mountain looms over this section of the Sierra Nevada, and the wonderful smell of pine, cedar, and manzanita fills the air. There are few traces of the mining in the immediate vicinity, but a hike up the mountain reveals many abandoned buildings and ironworks.
The moon rises very late. When I wake at three, the land is flooded with a white, almost fluorescent light. Embers from the campfire that had transfixed us in the darkness before midnight still glow in the big stone hearth, but it’s the moonlight that mesmerizes now.
We sleep well on the ground, but the stiffness of our bodies and the beauty of the morning require an hour to wake up, clean up, and eat. Long silences ensue as we find ourselves sitting in the sun and watching a chipmunk or jay, or studying the shape of some gnarled pine.
It’s windy, and the gusts don’t die down until sunset. Then the mountains grow calm, even still, and remain so all night and morning.
There are only a few other campers. A young girl’s voice carries on the motionless air. Each step crunches on the dirt and pine needles underfoot. Above, the serrated edge of the granite ridge cuts through the cobalt sky. Everywhere you turn, there is peace, and wonder, and a blessing beyond words.
After another leisurely morning, punctuated by a few-mile hike, we reluctantly break camp to return to the world and work. A few clouds have begun to gather.
By the time we reach the valley floor two and half hours later, it feels like the world has been turned upside down. A huge thunderhead roils over the mountains, hot winds swirl in the valley, and people seem a little crazy.
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The author welcomes comments.