Nature & Consciousness

What I know about human consciousness I learned from childhood, academics, indigenous healers, poets, musicians, artists, and life experience, mixed and re-mixed inside my mind until a pattern emerged. School taught me to ask the right questions, indigenous healers taught me what was possible, art opened me, and experience blended them into a view of consciousness based in the physical world. Mine is a natural view of things, unattached to supernatural forces or rational mind. Thinking for its own sake turns bloodless and uncaring. Rationalizations become “truth” and “truth” becomes dogma without the connection to the animal body and indigenous mind. Nature is capable of its own magic.

There are two ways of knowing. On the one hand, you must see it to believe it. This is the rational mind at work, skeptical, literal, and correct. Or so it thinks. The second way of knowing requires you to believe it to see it. This way of knowing is body-centered, metaphorical, and suggestive. The indigenous mind starts here and uses the rational mind in service of connectivity to nature. The world I live in is animated by nature and informed by cycles that repeat indefinitely. I am but a small part of something nameless, ineffable, and out of reach. Origins need not be known to know the way. I need only to connect. This is what I think about. Everything follows from there.

As a child I was deeply connected to a presence hovering around me; without form it presented itself energetically—sensation more than a thought or concept. This sensation felt protective, as if it shrouded me in a cocoon of silk. Childhood afforded me ample time with no one around and nowhere to go but outside. The solitude of empty barns, open fields, rusting equipment, and abandoned pigpens provided refuge from everyday reality, and the presence awaited me. It is what every child wants, to be left alone in nature with imagination as guide and the world as willing teacher. By comparison, the structures invented by my own kind have always felt uncomfortable, confining, and confusing. The direct connection to nature is a better compass for me than the prognostications of algorithms staring at me on the computer screen or worn out fables stripped of veracity.

When children daydream a door opens to another world filled with real-life images activated by the imagination. Animals talk, trees walk, fairies fly, inanimate becomes animate, and the sky is the limit. In the indigenous mind this serves as training for the future adult who continues to see an animated world now through the eyes of observation, experience, and comparison. The worldview of the child remains intact, attached to adult sensibilities. Rather than overriding/overwriting the child’s world, it is recast as spirituality, woven into the same fabric as the material world. The two become one in the marriage of body and psyche, masculine and feminine, yin and yang, sun and moon. Consciousness is the coupling of the two, the intersection where mind and matter collide causing something new to appear. Monochromatic consciousness. It is what the great biologist, E.O. Wilson, calls consilience—seeing difference as aspects of a greater whole. It is what Little Dan, a Hopi elder, taught me by example. What appears separate is only a piece of the fabric, embedded in the tapestry of life.

The indigenous mind lies buried in each of us, a remnant of the past, a tool for the future. The key to unlock it is resides in the animal body and its connection to nature. Connectivity between human and nature comes through spending time together, sage advice for any relationship. Too often people seek connection from other people, places, and things, when the animal body only wants what it knows. For too long we have been taught to look outward for the answer to inner problems, trusting others to tell us what is wrong and what we can do to remedy it. The Dali Llama teaches that all suffering is the result of thoughts stuck inside your head. Change your thoughts and you change your relationship to the world. Change cannot happen on the same level as the problem. Thinking cannot change thinking anymore than wishing can cause the world to pay attention. To change the way you think requires a new way of seeing.

It is human fate to be an animal. This is my basic truth, the one I start with and never lose sight of. Give me my animal body and you give me god. I am a human animal who thinks, feels, dreams, and prays everyday. I live close to the source for fear of forgetting where I come from and where I shall return. Earth to earth, dust to dust. My life is only as good as the alignment to its own basic truth. Before ideas, thoughts, and images, comes the lived experience—extreme presence that pulls the mind and body into amazing focus, instinct taking over for thought, all of the senses working for the same outcome. Sight, sound, smell, taste, feel, and thought work together for a greater whole. The animal body becomes charged with consciousness, connected to the earth it is standing on, and focused on the living experience. The imagination gives us many ways to conceive the world, symbols that tell the story. By placing nature as the source from which imagination springs, you will learn, once again, to live as nature intended.