Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Come to Your Senses as we enter Spring with Jesse Wolf Hardin

We decided as an Ode to the entrance of Spring to share with you an excerpt from Jesse Wolf Hardin's Gaia Eros. This portion is excerpted from Chapter 5.

You must concentrate yourself and consecrate yourself wholly
to each day, as though a fire were raging in your hair.

Our physical and intuitive senses are tools for this reinhabitation— connecting us in a real way to the rest of this feeling world, to increased response-ability...and to the immediate rewards of taste and touch, sensation and bliss.

In New Nature Spirituality, we know that we live in order to feel—and feel in order to praise and celebrate that life. We sense and relate to the world through the complex symbiosis of emotion and instinct we call the heart, through the “five senses,” and those unmeasured faculties such as intuition and precognition that scientists have lumped together as the “sixth sense.” While one can benefit by learning the “facts” about any chosen bioregion or terrain, we can never really know a place by reading a book on the subject or by thinking about it. We only come to know it like a baby, humbly and appreciatively touching and tasting the world we’re a physical, integral part of—launched bodily into the experience and knowledge of place: the eyes seeing every nuance of undressed life, sucking its hitchhiking molecules up through the passages of the anxious nose. Reading the vibrations in the air as they play across the taut tissues of our eardrums. Trying like that baby to put the entire world into our mouths, constantly reaching out to handle it. Our natural response to our being born is to pull the substance and meaning of the world closer to us, or by grabbing a hold, to pull ourselves ever closer to it. In this way life “makes sense,” and our senses make the experience of life.

The practices of New Nature Spirituality are antidotes to the cognitive disassociation of modern human kind. Ritual and magic reconnect us to our bodies and the body of inspirited Gaia. Mindfulness is a component of both awareness and sacrament. Social and environmental activism puts us “in touch” with what matters most. The act of restoring wild places (wildcrafting) feeds us like nothing else. And wildcrafting can be a port of reentry to the experience and purpose of self and place. We learn cordage—fashioning raw plant fiber into rope—not because we expect to find ourselves lost in the wilderness, but because we know it will help us find ourselves again. And because of the way it binds us to our essential native selves, weaving us back into the fabric of Nature. We practice to avoid the slide into rote, habitual behavior, to prevent the dulling of the animal senses that connect us to the so-real world.

We can practice awareness wherever we are, and not just out in Nature. One can “stay awake” by noticing the way a chair cradles the back, the tickley way in which air dries the sweat on our neck, or the messages of hormonal pheromones released by others in the room. Each has something to impart to us, communicating through its energy, presence, and example the factors relevant to our being. Things such as the gift of wild foods growing at our feet, the fact that our neck may be sore if we don’t change positions, that the window needs to be opened, or that somebody we love is very angry with us! Staying in-body and in-focus is a constant and unrelenting task, a challenge to willingly face the cauldron of tests, the bursting moment, the shadowless crucible. But one must actually choose to see less, hear less, feel less. We are individually responsible for our failures to perceive, and for what happens or doesn’t happen when we’ve deliberately turned away. And likewise, we can take credit whenever we make the decision to wholly feel instead!

By looking, listening, smelling—we are touching, acknowledging, engaging, and thus affecting the world of which we’re a part. Regardless of the degree to which we affect it, regardless of measurable results, we’re nonetheless rewarded, immediately, for any “return to our senses”: The ears that discern each element of discordant traffic are bestowed with the songs of the birds in every trimmed shrub. The nose that is trained to remain alert even in the presence of noxious fumes has a field day in line at the bakery. The eyes that meet the eyes of the world, behold the magic of unveiled truth. The hands that reach out are grasped in return.

The human body is an ecstatic organ, an agent and organ of Gaian bliss. The practice of its reinhabitation involves refamiliarizing ourselves with the feel and function of our flesh. We can start by attending the feel of our blood pushing through our veins, then the vibrations of the ground below us, then the point where our trembling rhythms intermesh with those of the Earth. Then, without moving from where you are, like an enthusiastic cook, isolate the ingredients of your experiencing, segregating and recombining each of the senses. With the eyes closed and ears plugged, know the world through the wind and whatever else touches you. Try to taste with the nose plugged. Smell with the eyes closed, and try to identify each distinct aroma in the air, then attempt to triangulate your position in this way. With the eyes and nose blocked, try to measure and qualify the source of each sound occurring around you. In the woods or in a safe part of a park, plug all the head-bound senses and feel your way through the grass, examining every object with deft fingertips alone, enjoying and communicating with the most ordinary of them as if they were remarkably new and unique to you, communing in the giving and receiving of touch.

By choosing to open up and pay attention, in time, we begin to notice the way different foods affect our energy levels, recognize the gentle effects of different herbs, and know the position of the moon without looking. We notice which postures cause us to tighten up and which increase our range of movement. Too much of our disappearing moments are spent drifting through inner space, the cerebral abyss. For our reprieve, we can thank any and all sources of “wake-up calls.” Reprieval, and retrieval.

And why deprive ourselves, why diminish the depth and richness of a single lived moment? It really is a sensuous world we work, play, and dance through, a glad explosion of color and form! To know our place in such a world, to come home...we must first “come to our senses.”

Come to them, I suggest, as we once left them behind.

Jesse Wolf Hardin is an internationally renowned artist, musician, and presenter on Earth-centered spirituality, and Pagan and magical practice. He is the author of numerous books, including Kindred Spirits: Sacred Earth Wisdom (2001).

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