In the mid-summer in Texas the heat can be quite the scorch to the skin and suffocating near the coastal areas with near ninety percent humidity and above. Once in the hill country there is a little relief from the humidity, but in all respects, it’s still summer and very hot. Shade and water are the two main ingredients for enjoying the outdoors in the summer time, Texas style. So, practicality aside, and mysterious magic-making at the center, I can think of no better way to go to war with myself than in the heat of the majestic hill country.
The Tao Te Ching reminds us that we have two universal energies that make up what we call living – Yin and Yang. Yin, the divine feminine pulls us inward, into mystery and sacred silence. It is formless. It incubates us and offers its womb to us as a place of rest, nourishment, and safety. Yang, the divine masculine pulls us outward to speak, express, and create. Yang is the fuel of our birth and rebirth. It is the world of form and it is that which we see.
So, Texas personality meets ancient Chinese philosophy. What’s a girl to do except a little tango with the two – Yin and Yang – where Yin wins the heart space and Yang continually pulls me to do anything, but sit and contemplate? The two to tango officially accepted.
I’m off the heels of my annual vision quest and prayer fast in the Texas hill country. This quest always entails another round of fasting on water for 48 hours, nature, and a lot of contemplation and meditation. While a quest sounds exciting, the journey is one of inward wrestling rather than one of outward peak setting. It’s a quest where the only main character is me and the narrator is God. That’s right, just me and all my thoughts surrounded by the enchanting power of all of creation. Sounds delectably refreshing doesn’t it?
Well, as you might imagine, the answer to that question is mixed. Once the tent goes up, the pack is stowed away, and my water battle is loyally strapped to my hip, well, that’s it; it’s just me, my thoughts and a lot of water to drink. Relaxing. But, it’s not relaxing. It’s loud. Extremely loud. And, the sound isn’t coming from the outside, it’s coming from the inside. I accepted the tango, not the tenacious visitor, or more definitive perhaps, imposter, in my head. I painstakingly told myself sitting on the bluff that overlooked the forest on the banks of the river, “This isn’t my first rodeo, why doesn’t this get any easier?”
Epiphany visited me momentarily. The difficulty, the heat, the disturbance and all that noise in my head, it’s doing exactly what it should be doing. It’s part of the process. It’s the war we run away from each time we eat or drink when we aren’t really hungry. It’s the distraction we get in over-involved and consuming relationships. It’s the numbed effect we crave, because we are too scared to feel the rawness of being uncomfortable with our inner most and deepest self. We, of course, have every right to be scared. There’s some scary stuff inside of us, especially when we choose to pull it to the surface for quiet inspection with no distractions but our own personalized microscope powered by the heart of vulnerability.
What felt like hours after diligently setting up the tent and getting comfortable in my meditation zone was only an hour. I had 47 more to go with nothing but the noise of thinking about all the things I wasn’t eating, could be doing, should be doing, and how silly this discourse was chasing its own tail was my sole comic relief amongst the occasional biting flies and the suffocating humidity. I wanted to run and to give up and came up with all kinds of reasons that this really wasn’t necessary.
But, I sat. I drank a lot of water. And, I listened. I listened a lot. I laughed at myself too. Somehow, it got easier, then harder, and back to easier and harder again. It was the ultimate ping-pong of emotional fodder that kept me so engaged, mesmerized, and utterly exhausted all in the course of a few minutes. Then suddenly by miraculous matrimony the heavens aligned. It was time to tuck myself right on top of my sleeping bag and gaze at the twinkles of light through the holes in the screen of my small tent and wander to another place and time where there’s no war, just a quiet space of calm and connectedness and profound love for the human experience.
It was spiritual ecstasy on a bed of hot coals – literally and figuratively. As I went to sleep outside in the woods in the middle of the Texas summer the ground was hot, so hot that the heat warmed my sleeping bag right up to and through my bones. I awoke in the middle of the night almost feeling as if I was going to suffocate and couldn’t breathe. The air was still, hot, and stale. I kept gripping for the ecstasy, but the only thing I could find was heat-induced fear. Even the breath couldn’t save me this time. I had to feel the uncomfortable and be ok with it. My literal feeling self tangoed with my figurative feeling self and ultimately what I got from this meeting was another layer of my ego weeping, and in all dramatic honesty, kicking and screaming its way into the depths of the cosmos.
My tectonic tantrum eventually subsided and the words of the Tao Te Ching rang like Tibetan bells synchronized for the most honorable ceremony, “Under heaven all can see beauty as beauty only because there is ugliness, all can know good as good only because there is evil…difficult and easy complement each other.” It’s the heat that will eventually get me to a comfortable place, both on the inside, and as if counting by the seconds, on the outside where the breeze blows and the summer shade follows you wherever you go. At this point in the journey, I’m really counting on this aphorism.
The rest of my time on the rocks where I sat to listen was much of the same internal war zone and taffied tango with some intermittent quiet levels of profound reflection and enlightenment. As I pondered staying another day to up one on my 48-hour fasting tour, the divine whispered that it was time to go.
The message was clear in the defogged lenses of my mind – radical divine trust. As I stepped away from sacred ground to incubate myself in the tent for the last night, the loud and crackling thunder hammered right through my heart that it was indeed time to go. Just as I zipped up the tent door the rain started pouring in sheets and thankfully I had diligently put the rainfly on the tent. As I lay there atop my sleeping bag another night grateful for the relief from the heat and listened to the rain pelting against the thin walls of my make-shift shelter I realized that radical divine trust wasn’t the answer, it’s the process.
On the rocks where I sat to listen I also realized that the best teacher is the one who doesn’t speak at all. I didn’t find the answer, but I did understand the depths of the process, of our human journey, and connection to our spiritual selves with great profundity.
“Therefore the wise go about doing nothing, teaching no-talking; The ten thousand things rise and fall without cease; Creating, yet not possessing; Working, yet not taking credit; Work is done, then forgotten; Therefore it lasts forever.” ~ Tao Te Ching, Two
Yin and Yang made it back out of the woods still together in the everyday existence of life. The dance was beautiful and tumultuous. Just like the process in our day-to-day lives. It is only in the silence that I am able to share this story and by sharing this story I will continually seek more silence. Push and pull. And, that’s just the way it will always be.
Om Shanti Om