Pray inwardly, even if you do not enjoy it. It does good, though you feel nothing. Yes, even though you think you are doing nothing.
- JULIAN OF NORWICH
Fourteenth century English mystic
OXFORD, Ohio (ZP) -- It's a rare thing, anymore, for a supposedly civilized man in a supposedly civilized society - in the world's only remaining, albeit collapsing, "superpower," as it is - to find himself drawn to a remote spot in a wood for no purposeful reason, other than to to sit and meditate in silence in a weed-filled, secluded meadow in the so-called witching hours.
Completely naked, no less, beneath a very dark new moon, alone in the darkness with nothing but the sounds of critters in the surrounding grass, a whispering breeze, and my own heartbeat to keep my bare ass company.
Needless to say, obviously, I'm not the kind of civilized man of cultural superpower leisure one expects to find naked in the woods, meditating and pacing my breath down to an almost melodious purr.
Hey, I do my own thing. And the tendency to spontaneously strip naked in a field is, well, one of my many quirks. Sue me.
Bloggers and technocrats can't be into that weird metaphysical shit, you're probably saying right now. This is the 21st century! We have Wiis to make us fit, WOW tourneys to make us magical, and streaming audio sermons and e-book bibles to help us find faith...
Trust me when I say that some of those primitive things we've given up to build our civilizations are often the ones that, well, bring us the most peace. And the more we lose touch with things like our bodies, with nature, with our spiritual bond with this here plane of existence, the less peace we will know, our children and grandchildren will know.
It takes some getting used to in our Brave New World Order built upon junk ownership and 24-hour information - the embracing of momentary solitude as a fleeting eternity, the touch of your normally cloth-covered flesh intermingling with dandelions and scratchy twigs and even ants, the whole "Trying to feel at one with the world" thing often left to New Age self-help gurus to make a profit off of at air-conditioned retreats and cult meetings down at the mega-chain bookstore.
I'm sure, well, I'm being judged right now. And I don't care.
Seriously, when was the last time you were so naked and alone, so vulnerable and exposed, and yet felt completely comfortable with it?
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Throughout the mythology and folklore of much of the ancient world, it was the darkest phase of the lunar cycle that was often seen as the more powerful and benevolent than the full moon, a time for healing and fasting and, yes, even prayers and thanksgivings.
Hell, there's a reason all of our supernatural occult thrillers involving werewolves and teen vampires, zombies and demons, often center around the full moon. Our ancient forebears used to share those same legends, sans cinematography, CGI, or good screen-writing, around their hearths and campfires - for some odd reason, they usually associated the full moon's light with mischief and evil.
The NEW moon lore, however, often gets overlooked. Doesn't make for a good movie or trashy romance novel. Stories involving pale, illuminated demons make for better suspense than, oh, say stories that often involve good omens, faith, and solitude.
Which, well, for guys like me, tends to be a good thing.
Can you imagine if, like with full moons, the same Ohio woods I've learned to disappear into on certain nights, for meditation and contemplation, were suddenly filled with goth kids playing at witchcraft, pale-ass hipsters covered in glitter and opining undead, bloodsucking heartthrobs, or hordes of crop-circle crazy housewives and spinsters in search of Divine Mother Earth crap they read about in some poorly written ecofeminist manifesto?
* * * *
I've meditated, alone, all over this country. And this rather uncivilized ritual is, of course, not limited to mere new moons, nudity, or even the mere absence of other people.
In California, beneath a live oak in an old, abandoned cemetery, overlooking a gorgeous series of box canyons and vineyards. In Wyoming, there was this sea of the most gorgeous golden grain right before a late summer storm I came upon after covering a Legion baseball game - I felt the whole universe burst upon my chest like a mortar. Virginia, well, I had this spot on the farm near the train tracks.
One of the best moments, ever, was in Denver, smack dab in the middle of Larimer Square, at four in the morning, right as snow was starting to fall. Of course, sure, I was clothed in below-freezing weather, and of course, the place was crawling with the usual homeless folk digging for scraps in the trash bins. But, oh, how beautifully still and tranquil a city such as Denver becomes as snow falls.
There's been motel rooms in Mississippi, dark, empty truckstops in Arizona, beaches in Florida, dust-choked tamale stands in southwestern Texas near the Rio Grande. Once, in a crowded art gallery opening. Another time while pulling barbed wire to repair a section of fence, perfect transendental moments at rodeos, in barber shops, even while playing chess with a Buddhist monk.
Meditation requires no ritual, no spontaneous nudity. There is no right or wrong way to do it. The magic of life is that it just keeps happening, like shit. It takes effort to slow down the self long enough to catch that beautiful alchemy in the act.
* * * *
So, well, what do I get out of vanishing into the bush, on a lark, out of stripping naked beneath a long-ignored new moon?
In all honesty, I couldn't tell you. The way that can be spoken or written, according to Lao Tzu, cannot be the way. If I put words to the few moments of calm, those moments would cease to have meaning.
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