These birds are flying in unison as though magically choreographed. There’s an invisible flow of energy within and between the individuals of this flock. They form a shape-shifting cloud. Somehow, they form incredibly rapid yet coordinated mass movements that leave us land-locked creatures awestruck. They quite literally put our Navy’s Blue Angel fighter jet flight team to shame.
The phenomenon is known by scientists as murmuration and the science itself behind how these birds accomplish it is magical. According to treehugger.com, “The change in the behavioral state of one animal affects and is affected by that of all other animals in the group, no matter how large the group is”. As yet scientists do not fully understand how this is done so for right now, we can just appreciate the magic of it all.
On my walk this morning I witnessed a bit of magic, a twirling and bobbing leaf dancing about three feet above the ground. A slight breeze seemed to keep it aloft. I crept closer to see what kind of spell was playing out, put on my glasses, and peered all around it looking for suspending material like a web or a single strand of spider silk but could see nothing. As I changed my position around the leaf it altered its own position as though playing with me. I then moved my hand in circles, and it began to twirl, when I turned my palm toward it, it stopped and hovered. Great fun!
Transfixed by this floating marvel several people who passed by looked at me oddly as I had now gotten out my cell phone and was videoing the phenomenon. Though I couldn’t see it I surmised early on that it was a silk thread that kept it suspended but didn’t want to spoil the magical moment by reaching above the leaf and snagging the invisible strand. In the end I left it alone being content to leaving its magic extant and hurried on to catch the walk sign at the intersection and continue on home.
We all know of the five physical senses, though some arguments favor listing the kinesthetic sense as a separate sense. However, the kinesthetic is a sense of one’s body position in space and is classified as a subset of the somatic/touch sensory system. All the senses give us information about the material and temporal world that our bodies inhabit. However, there are other senses that provide us with input from the unseen world; however, we all are taught to rely on information from only the first five senses.
Some of us also know of a sixth sense that some call the intuitive sense that seems to come from the personal or collective unconscious or from somewhere outside ourselves.
Some shaman know of at least two other senses, the sense of the land, or place, and the sense of soul, where they can discern the soul of the earth and its animals. There may also be a spiritual sense, the voiceless and ephemeral sense that sometimes “speaks” to us in our quiet moments. These moments of spiritual experience can create the uncomfortable urge to act when safety seems to be the more prudent course of action.
These other four senses, i.e., intuitive, earth, soul, and spirit, are extremely subtle, especially in western societies where people have fallen out of touch with them. The hustle and bustle stresses of everyday life overwhelm these senses to the point of not connecting even if we knew of their existence. But these same stressors have also dulled the primary five senses.
How often do we let the taste and smell of a lemon consciously tweak our senses or bask in the energy boost felt when a breeze caresses our body? When we come across a garden of roses, do we notice the effect of their concentric geometry that draws us toward their center? Are we conscious of the acceleration effects of a car on our bodies?
How often do we stop to listen to the music of our bodies, the rhythm of our breaths, and the beating of our hearts? What does melodic music do to the body versus a loud discordant sound?
How often are we conscious of our movements or where our bodies are in space? Do we hear color or see the color in a sound? Can you taste an F# or feel a C major chord? Though these sensations are often relegated to those with synesthesia, we all can “hear” or “see” a sound’s color or even taste it if we sense it quietly without expectation.
We are so much more than we think we are.
We are trained, that is, conditioned to only “see” what we think is possible. We know that our five senses are limited to the narrow band of frequencies they are designed to operate within. It is this narrow electro-magnetic band of sensory input that we are trained to believe is reality. However, we can train our mind, i.e., our body psyche, to see so much more through attention to our dreams, meditation, and mindfulness to all our sensory experiences, not just the ones our culture says are real.
Over time, I have also found that an expanded sensory awareness that can deepen and broaden awareness of the reality around and within me can reveal and enhance yet another sense of love. As a sense, we can experience compassion, caring, giving, grace, and forgiveness as part of our soul sense and begin to feel the sense of spirit that is everywhere and in everything.
Reality is a sneaky little devil. All too often, it hides behind our prejudices, beliefs, and ignorance. Because we humans hate to be wrong, we tend to ignore what is right in front of us. When we shift our perspective, that reality reveals itself to us.
There are many instances in nature where reality is hidden from us until it is ready to reveal itself.
An example in nature of something present that we cannot see until its time has come is
a green leaf that has three pigments, carotenoids, chlorophylls, and anthocyanins. As chlorophyll becomes dominant, we see green reflected because the reds, oranges, and yellows of the 2nd and 3rd pigments are absorbed. As chlorophyll ends its cycle and turns off, as it does every fall for some plants, the other two pigments become dominant and the brilliant Autumn colors of yellows, reds, and oranges become apparent. All three are present simultaneously but only reveal themselves as the life cycle advances. This idea of hidden realities is true of humans as well in that we all have the organs that help to reproduce ourselves, but they don’t reveal their functionality until the whole organism is ready.
The study of psychology has shown us that what we are psychologically conditioned to see in each situation we will see only through the lens of that conditioning. It is why a couple of black people entering a house in a white neighborhood are seen as breaking in rather than the reality that one man is a realtor showing the house to a prospective buyer. The conditioned view to reality affects the reality seen. The conditioned point of view hides what is really happening.
We also have both personality aspects that are traditionally assigned to gender within us. These aspects tend to be noticeable based on individual and cultural expectations and reinforcements. The bottom line is that we each have masculine and feminine elements, usually in equal amounts, but our cultural and ego prejudices skew their presentation. This cultural or ego distortion of our aspects can cause males to act a certain way because they see only the masculine reality and females to work and act in a certain way. After all, they see predominantly only the feminine truth. This either/or reality, also known as binary reality, keeps people restricted, myopic, and less able to manifest their wholeness.
Women have the innate ability to be assertive and decisive, just as men have the natural ability to be compassionate and accepting. Still, in a society that has assigned appropriate behaviors based on myopic gender beliefs, assertive and decisive women are seen as pushy. In contrast, men who show compassion and acceptance are seen as weak. In such an environment, the individual ego that is predisposed to believe and act in a particular manner to be accepted by the culture they live within will behave in such a way to be in sync with the dominant reality.
Whoa, be it to the individual who has expanded their reality to include a broader description of reality, for they will no doubt, as Shakespeare once penned, suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. By acting outside the proscribed norm of a cultural belief, the corporate ego’s perspective is challenged and thus threatened. Why? Well, because it’s just wrong. One needs to act appropriately. Because the ego is programmed to defend itself from any threat, in this case from being wrong, it will attack that which is threatening it. This threat can bring about a temporary correction in the prevailing reality matrix. Still, when too many people begin to exhibit the threatening change, it can cause one of two things, adjustment of the belief or increased resistance.
So what happens when you move beyond the binary system of viewing and experiencing reality? What happens when you shift your view from either standard for viewing reality? What will you see when you let go of your expectations, thoughts, and ideas about what you see? What happens then?
No, I can’t tell you what happens for if I did you would then expect to see what it is that I say I see or you would reject what I say because it doesn’t meet your expectations of what you think is there. Ponder the questions without answering them for to answer them is to collapse their power and bring them into the reality of the binary world and the binary world is not reality.
Three of us are surrounded by rubble, filling a cavernous building. As we climb over the collapsed mess, we find wreckage everywhere, desks, staircases, balustrades, computers, chairs, and sofas. I’m not supposed to be there because I was only a last-minute substitute for another team that was supposed to manage this venue. I did not train for this, but the other two didn’t seem any more competent.
The “boss” charges me with going through the rubble to find the money. Where to look and how to look for it wasn’t part of the instruction. Without knowing what I was doing, I dig in.
After jotting down this dream, I donned my jacket and walked out into the early morning mist to begin my morning four-mile exercise that I usually punctuated with a stop at the local coffee shop along with a quick read of the Times newspaper. As I was walking, I thought about the dream and mulled over its meaning.
I wondered if it was an allegory for the struggle I’ve had lately to find evidence of love in the world, a world full of hateful language, fear, arrogance, hunger, poverty, ego dominance, killing, and indifference.
These days I find that I tear up when I witness acts of kindness and love as though these acts have become so rare as to trigger the fond memories of more civil and caring times.
I also wondered if this dream was a plea to look for more kindnesses that have been lost in the rubble of partisan politics, fear, and rigid belief systems that encourage the demeaning of others who may not agree with these points of view.
As with the dream, I don’t know how to go about this on anyone or anything but myself because the world I live in is all so torn up and in ruins.
What we will be doing from here on is disentangling you from all inner and outer attachments of your life—that is, all the things that you believe are real and necessary to life.”
“Uh, excuse me, professor, but with all due respect, you seem to be quite attached to your collection of junk spread out on every surface around here. I mean, there’s chaos everywhere! “
“Ah, but there is a symmetry to my chaos; everything is sorted by how high the stacks are.”
“That sounds to me like the definition of ‘clutter,’” said Adam with a slight grin.”
“Never you mind, young man. One man’s clutter is another man’s filing system. Now where was I?”
“I think you were talking about disentanglement,” Adam said with a slight indictment while he moved his hand across the room covered in all the whatnot.
The magus frowned and went on. As he talked, the room seemed to clear itself of all the so-called clutter, leaving all the surfaces free and clear. Adam was about to say something but then thought better of it.
“Right now you operate as though the only part of your mind that is of real importance is your conscious mind. The conscious mind is that part of you that thinks it knows what is real, but it is like a wall between you and reality. It literally creates the reality that you see, and that reality is often a false experience. Reality is not just one but many. Your mind is caught in only one of those many. By this limitation you are looking through a dark window into your deeper mind—what an old friend of mine called ‘a glass darkly.’
“When your idea of self is able to disentangle from the false identity, the current center of your consciousness, and open to the space between it and the unconscious mind, you will create a new center of being that will then allow you to tap into and include the unconscious, become fully human, and be magic. This is a place of spiritual emptiness—that is, a space of silence where only the real can enter. Spirituality must engage both the conscious and unconscious mind, and magic demands it. Do you understand?”
“I … I do, sort of, though I … I’m still confused as to how I get there.” The boy stammered as he trembled at the thought of what “there” might mean.
“The first thing you will have to do is to give up your attachment to all things,” affirmed the old man rather dryly and without emotion.
“What? What do you mean? Give up my attachment to everything? You mean give up everything I own? Are you kidding?” He noted that this was beginning to sound a lot like all those boring sermons at church when he was a kid. He wasn’t any more likely to give up all that he had worked so hard to get now than he had been back then, when he thought it meant giving up his action figures collection and video game console. He didn’t think at that time that it was much of a heaven where one couldn’t have those things, and the stakes were even higher now.
“I mean, you must give up your attachment to these things, including your ideas about them. You are attached to the outer world, and that is your greatest obstacle to the introspection necessary for discovering your magic. You believe that you need these things in order to survive or be happy, do you not?”
“Most of them, yes … yes, of course!” The boy exclaimed emphatically.
“Most of them?” queried the old man as he raised one eyebrow.
“Well … food, water, breathing seem like necessary attachments, don’t you think?”
“You are talking about being attached to living and to the avoidance of dying, am I right?”
“Of course! I would think avoiding death at all costs would be an obvious goal,” said Adam defensively.
“The many thoughts of death are unique to the human animal. While other animals just instinctively react to any potential death threat, humans think about it a lot prior to and after any actual threat. However, for humans the thoughtful concept of death actually organizes one’s life. It is what brings vitality to one’s living when one acknowledges the presence of it at every turn. Life and death is just another polarity where when one resists the struggle it’s apparent conflict fractures the whole and limits the expression of the magic. The whole idea of free will depends on the struggle and the embracing of death. Your attachment to its avoidance can limit your full expression. Do you not see this?”
“I do, but if you don’t mind, I’d like to stay alive, though I can appreciate the value that this desire can have upon the way I live my life.”
Though this poem can be a metaphor for remaining in the present moment, a be-here-now piece of poetry, it is also a reminder that there is a portal between the myopic and distracted awareness we call the everyday world and the more profound and broader reality that exists all around and within. If we can learn to focus and be less distracted by the unreality of the ego and all its projections that put into a state of sleep, we can open the round door into the beauty of the real world, the world not subject to our ego.
Jesus spoke of this when he claimed that “the kingdom of God is within (or among) you” (Luke 17:21). Could he not have meant that the reality that is the actual world is all around us if we could but look and that the looking requires seeing beyond the narrow interpretations of our ego-filled minds?
In another story where two worlds touched, Alice found her portal (in Alice through the looking glass by Lewis Carroll) when she stepped through the looking glass and discovered her authentic self through the allegory of a symbolic world that mirrored her unconscious. Stepping back out, she hid behind the ever protective egoic mask that we humans wear when we don’t know who and what we are.
Rumi also speaks to me when I have succeeded in passing through the portal from egoistic reality to a spiritual reality centered outside the head and in the heart but then fall back through the door when the human reality pulls me back. All my life, it has been a constant wrestling match between awareness and unconsciousness where brief aha moments propel me through the door separating the two worlds and then kick me out when the ego pulls me back. His poem reminds me that I’ve fallen asleep once again, and it’s time to wake up.
(Excerpt from the book Psyche’s Dream: A dragon’s Tale)
Without even a “good evening,” the old magus motioned the boy to sit on the braided rag rug before him and began to talk. Adam felt a little as though he were back in kindergarten, sitting on a carpet square before the teacher; and now, as then, he was full of fear, excitement, and anticipation for all the wonders to be revealed.
The old man waved his hand through the air, and the room filled with light.
“There, that is better; we can see each other now. First, you need to remember that magic is not about things. Things have no magic, though there are those who use things, like idols, for magical effect. To the degree that your consciousness is preoccupied with things—the having and not having of them, and your unending compulsive plans around your life—to this degree you will not be able to produce any magic.
“I will not teach you magic, but I will teach you how to open the door to it. There is a greater spirit beyond that which is recognized and worshiped in the religions of most of humankind. It is from this truth that magic flows. This is not the magic of medicine bags, wands, idols, incantations, and charms; nor is it the magic of tranquilizers, drugs, rationalism, positive thinking, or the power of your will—at least not the will of your smaller self.”
“My smaller self?”
“Yes, yes. You have two selves; the smaller is the one you are most familiar with, and the bigger is your essential self, your real self. We will go into that in much more detail when you have had the experience of this bigger self.”
“Sounds intriguing! Can I experience it now?”
“Not if you keep interrupting!” the magus exclaimed. “Now where was I … oh yes, the things that we collect on our spiritual journey through life are not the source of power; it is their meaning to the person who honors them that is the source of the power. You cannot even begin to see what magic is if you are attached to the world of things. When you realize that you are not one of those things but rather are the container of all things, then and only then will you be open to magic.
“Let me be clear; things are a false prophet. Beyond the basics of physical survival, love, and belonging, there is nothing that needs to be attained, or even held on to, that is of any real or lasting value. We are complete and with nothing left out. Anything worth being we already are there is nothing missing. All the striving is just so much noise. Whether we think of ourselves highly or are burdened by self-criticism and doubt, it is just so much noise.”
“But what’s wrong with things?” Adam asked.
“Do not mistake my words; there is nothing wrong with things or even in their having. We can have as many things as we want, and the process of getting and having the things can be fun, but the things are not going to make any real difference in our lives. The degree to which we are “attached” to these things is also the degree to which we cannot experience magic.
The very act of unconditional giving or detachment magically becomes a receiving, whereas acts of mostly getting create a dissonance that will separate you from the magic. In short, anything that separates will keep you from the magic. Why do people hoard things such as objects, money, food—whatever?”
“Well, I guess to survive a future time when they won’t have them.”
“Yes, but that suggests that their worldview is one of not enough, limit, and scarcity. But that view only drains the energy for realizing magic, whereas letting go of these attachments allows for the flow of energy that leads to magic.
What we will be doing from here on is disentangling you from all inner and outer attachments of your life—that is, all the things that you believe are real and necessary to life.”
On my walk this evening, I started to review the events of yesterday when I had seemingly passed through a portal into another world and, in that world, had an epiphany that gave me a whole new perspective. But today, the perspective was gone. It was as though I passed through the portal again, and what seemed like a dream had lost its meaning.
This feeling of portal hopping had happened to me several times before, in Montenegro , where I had passed through an ancient rock portal into what seemed like a simpler 17th-century world, then back again through another doorway and into the modern world where the ancient no longer lived.
I had another portal hopping experience some years before Montenegro where I was in the Santa Cruz mountains and passed through a portal into a world of light where I was part of everything about me; then, after a time walked through yet another gate into the world of right now.
These are just three of many experiences that seemed like dreams, and like a dream, when I awoke in the world, the vision was gone. I was left with only a two-dimensional memory. I know that the vision and its meaning were powerful, but I couldn’t quite recreate it. But this time, I had written it down and was able to return to the meaning or at least a semblance of the meaning.
All my visions have been like dreams, dreams of the waking world if you will, and all presented a similar message that there is a cosmic fabric woven of time, space, object, subject, soul, and spirit and all connected and reflecting the One Being. I have been traveling through its gates and portals for years but have only just now begun to see its essence. It has been with me everywhere I have walked. My world has always seemed so very small, though I knew of and have visited many places. But what I saw of it was just what was in front of me at the moment. I’m beginning to see a broader world that’s all around, and through me, that walks with me. I am not separate from it but am it, yet just a little out of phase.
Occasionally walking through this world, I awaken, and for a moment, I remember that I’ve been dreaming and that the awakening becomes a reality. Alas, like a dream, it fades, and the two-dimensional world returns only now, not so much as before. For now, I know that there is a much bigger multidimensional world where I live. I can’t wait to explore it.