off the trail

Curved Trunk of Moss-Covered Tree 1

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I was drawn to a spot off the trail. Now, mid-July, the tall grasses are drying and it is easier to walk. The spot was not many yards off the trail and was pleasant as it was partly shaded. As I sat my thoughts settled and my mind was void and free of all effort. My body was at ease resting on the dried clay earthen surface.

I noticed the usual slight discomfort when siting without a cushion was absent. There was a sense of being “off the track” as a train might be on a waiting track, or so-called ‘siding’. I was off the main ‘trail’ of my conditioned consciousness: there was no content rising in the mind – there was only the living forest I was in the midst of, sitting on the earth. 

I had spent the night in the forest in a small cob hut with a straw floor. I was lying awake while my room-mate Dennis (a small rodent: a Mountain Beaver) was busy during his day-time bringing twigs for some purpose. In addition there was a strong moon shining through the door opening. I felt the physical embrace of the earth like a cocoon around me. I was completely comforted.

Now, in this calm and settled space ‘off the trail’ I could ‘look over’, so to speak, to the main trail, the trail of things to do, of tasks I had taken on in the community, events that had been put on my calendar and the entire living mechanism of all the relations between people and other beings.

This living mechanism felt like the conveyor belt in Charlie Chaplin’s classic movie “Modern Times”. As soon as I would step back onto the main trail I would be a ‘cog’ in the machinery again and would be set in motion by things as a thing.

 

 

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I recognized the possibility of retaining the perspective of the state of ‘no-thing’ even while the conveyor belt of life to nowhere continued to move all being and things along as usual. (Bhagavad Geeta XVIII – 61. The Lord dwells in the hearts of all beings, O Arjuna, causing all beings, by His illusive power, to revolve as if mounted on a machine made of material energy.)

The simple fact of ‘seeing’ this conveyor belt mechanism of the main trail was the fact of being in the unadulterated state in which there is nothing to do and nowhere to go. I recognized that the ‘no-thing’ state is constant, unchanging and unmoving and the movement of the main trail is a pure super-imposition on that solid state.

At some point my left foot, seeking comfort, moved out of its position and I uncrossed my legs. This one impulse of the foot desiring to change was the start of a chain of body-mind movements that placed me back on the main trail. All the while I saw how one movement led to the next and the next and the next… – so even before I walked again on the main trail into my day of activities in relation to people and things, I saw how the mechanism worked just as if I were watching a movie.

I didn’t resist being brought back in to engage as a complex cog-wheel of the total functioning (the Geeta uses the term “Lord“), however I also never left the vantage point from ‘off trail’. I was no longer being set in motion by things as an ‘object’ and as a part of the mysterious machinery but rather I was aware of being able to set things in motion as the Mysterious Principle – (with which I am one) – moved me. This is what is called ‘giving up the objective outlook’ and thus ‘what is’ is entirely ‘Subject-without-object’. I recognized all movement ‘on the main trail’ as a movement within ME. This ME is always stable, unchanging and therefore clear to see all of the changing movement while remaining in great composure.

While there is this underlying state of composure, simultaneously the physiological expression called Tomas is moving with all other expressions in the phenomenal world.

Chapter Two, Verse 25.

But O how wonderful!
I am the unbounded deep
In whom all living things
Naturally arise,
Rush against each other playfully,
And then subside.

The Ashtavakra Geeta

There is turbulence and discomfort as these waves of beings rush against each other playfully. While in the discomfort, the lack of satisfaction, and in the suffering these beings (us) do not perceive all of this as ‘playful’ – it is real drama. The understanding of this ‘mechanism’ however, keeps me from being thrown completely off-balance. Now I am able to roll with the rolls and rock with the rocks. I no longer feel like I am being ‘railroaded’ into situations with force.

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