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How to spend a fun day.

Oct 03, 1998 09:50 AM
by JRC

When an old indian first agreed to show me a few things about weather, about
wind and plants and animals, he told me I needed to learn how to listen. He
told me that people had such continually noisy minds that almost no one was
able to actually hear anything in the world. He didn't think people actually
paid *attention* to each other, let alone anything else in the world around
them. That they were even unable to spend many minutes alone in their own
minds ... preferring to have continual noise, TV, radio, stereo, anything in
the background rather than be stuck in silence with themselves. That even
when they were wide awake people existed in something resembling a dream

So the actual way I was supposed to learn how to listen (and the idea
appealed to me because it just sounded so damn creative) was to do what he
called "hearing a day" - to go into the mountains, sit under a tree
somewhere, and remain wide awake, and motionless, for 24 hours. He bet me I
couldn't do it. He also told me not to bother trying to BS him - cause he'd
*know* if I managed to do it. Didn't know what he was talking about - how
hard could such a thing be?

I started around noon one day ...  after little more than three hours I was
almost going nuts. My mind was racing and I came up with a hundred excuses
why what I was doing was stupid, and almost just got up and blew the whole
thing off. After four or five hours though, things kinda settled down, and I
started getting really - well, *quiet* inside. Started to get a little about
what he was talking about. And once I was no longer blurred by my own
thoughts, a sort of veil lifted - and I started really noticing the world.
The immense number of subtle changes that were happening during the course
of the day. The way the plants changed mood as evening approached. Watched a
hawk hunting field mice. After awhile I noticed that the place I was sitting
had kind of accepted my presence ... and things that generally scatter and
hide at the approach of humans started accepting me as no more important
than part of the tree. Little animals scurried around. A small herd of deer
crossed a path less than 50 feet away - noticing me, but not as a threat.
And then I hit the Zone - total silence inside - watched night descend with
its own rythym. heard the huge transition between day-life and night-life.
The many animals that quieted down at night, and the many others that awoke.
I started feeling a whole global range of sensation - perception became
three dimensional ... the sun didn't "rise and set" ... the *earth*
revolved, and I swear I *felt* myself sitting on a round globe, and *felt*
its rotation in almost a visceral way. I heard wind, but not as it *effects*
.. the sound of rustling leaves, but rather felt it as masses of air moving
through the thick atmosphere, like bubbles in a stream.

Almost fell asleep a few times, but managed to stay awake even in the dead
of night. Noticed this one place, just before dawn's first approach, when
even the night sounds had ceased - and it was totally silent, time seemed to
stop. I could not tell where I stopped and the world started.  But there was
almost a palpable feeling of - well, of a new day *gathering* itself. And
then, before the sky had even begun to lighten, I heard what had to be one
of the most remarkable and beautiful  sounds in the world: The first chirp
of a morning bird. Just one single note in the center of a vast silence. And
then all hell broke loose - the next hour felt like someone had turned a
computer on, and an immeasurably large operating system was initializing its
systems and booting its kernal. Species after species woke up, started
making noises, started interacting with others. The plants changed. The air
changed, and when the first ray of sunlight finally hit the side of my face
I *felt* it as a physical object. By the time noon came around, as tired and
hungry as I was, it was very difficult to leave. There was *so* much the was
still revealing itself to me - *so* much about the world, and the life
living on it, that I had been so totally unaware of. It felt like I could
sit there for days and still only be understanding but the barest bit of
what I had always just taken for for granted. But that day permanently
changed not only my relationship with the natural world - but, as I went
about my life, changed how I heard people too.

In fact, the next day, going to work, going out with friends afterwards, I
was almost stunned at how very much I had been oblivious to. Noticed that
with just a little center of silence inside - the equivilent of an inner
"ear" ... that people could not *help* but expose their entire selves, their
true intentions, with every word they spoke - even if the words (as words so
often are) were spoken to delibrately mask those very things - from others
as well as from themselves. Like there is some wholly different level of
life and experience, hidden but very real, that is continually going on
underneath modern civilization - indeed, that civilization floats on as a
small boat on a large ocean.

My entire judgement of people changed. Some that I had never noticed I
suddenly discovered were *aware* of this layer. Some that looked wholly
unremarkable, upon hearing their voices, I understood to be exceedingly rare
and magnificent at heart. Some that seemed weak were suddenly understood to
be powerful - others that had great apparent power ... in business, in
society ... exposed themselves as being almost hollow inside, like but a few
simple words could collapse their entire foundations. Few undertstood
themselves in either direction. There were many brilliant souls who had no
idea they were brilliant, and many who were empty and undeveloped inside who
thought themselves the greatest thing on earth.

But a few ... a rare few ... were *really* remarkable. They *understood*.
They knew and *acknowledged* where their stars shone, and knew and
ackowledged where their gems still needed polishing. No one could convince
them that were were more than they were - but no one could convince them
they were less. And this seemed to have nothing to do with age, class, race,
social status or wealth. These few seem to be scattered  through the entire
vast fabric of humanity, like gemstones sewn  randomly into a large quilt.

The other thing that day gave me was an appreciation for religion and
philosophy. At the root of all of it, I think, is a person or persons that
entered the Silence, and heard the world - heard its enormity, its vastness,
its diversity - and tried to put it into words, tried to name it, tried to
express it to those who had not heard it in a way that would allow them an
entrance into it. Having myself heard but the barest fraction of it, I at
least won the gift of being able to appreciate those whose listening had
extended over years, who had entered it deeply and passed portal after
portal on that interior path, an apprectiation for those centuries old
traditions that had accumulated the work and insights of countless nameless
adventurers in that amazing interiority - as someone who has tried to paint
with oils ... even if they are not particularly good ... can understand the
paintings of masters, the skill, the nuances, in an entirely different way.
While *followers* of traditions, *students* of those writings, focus heavily
on the knowledge aspect of things ... the *founders* themselves would
*never* say that the writing, the concepts, have any importance at all in
and of themselves. They would never claim that they had done anything other
than faintly hint at the actuality of that immensity. Would never try to
claim that what they wound up writing and saying was not miniscule in
relation to what they did not, and *could not* say. And were you to ask them
how *they* would want their writings used, I think that most of them would

"Do not bother yourselves about understanding the *letter* of my words, for
that is only my own small self, rather try, try with all your heart and
soul, to catch the *spirit* behind them, for that is much bigger than I. Do
not tell me you've memorized countless passages, do not think, with pride,
that *I* care, or would take sides in, some mindless battles over the "real"
meaning of my words - my words have *no* meaning, they are solely intended
to suggest an *entrance* to a world that is the *essence* of meaning. Do not
tell me you've fully grasped my concepts, tell me you've entered the *world*
in which they were born. Do not put on a mask of humility in front of me -
your humility is nothing but a cross-dressing arrogance. Do not look at me
as a "Master" - I *loathe* such concepts - they are untrue ... I have seen
but a small piece of the truth and immensity of this universe, and
understand that I am *nothing* - but if you crystallize a concept of me as
"master" in your mind, that idea - and the entire context it is but a small
part of - effectively bars the door the to ranges of your own inner
awareness required to access the infinite layers of the Real. I am not a
Master, and my writings are not the truth. I am a guy standing on the side
of a road, pointing. Do not look at me. Look at the direction to which I
point." Do not waste time examining the clothes I'm dressed in, or the
intricacies of the hand doing the pointing, rather, examine your backpack -
make sure you have gathered what you need for the journey, and gotten rid of
everything superfluous to it. Do not get down on your knees in front of me -
understanding and honoring *me* is not the point. Get up on your feet, and

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