The trail to God leads me up and over a mountain pass. On one side, I experience all I encounter as entities separate and distinct from myself and each other. Existential loneliness nags at my soul, longing me forward. After huffing and puffing, and concentrating attention, I get over the cloud-shrouded top and bound down the other side, where the boundaries fall away. At my back, enlivening wind presses me forward in fascinated engagement with all that flows around and along the trail. I am in and of that flow.
"Forgetfulness of creation, remembrance of the Creator, attention to what is within, and to be loving the Beloved," advised the 16th century mystical priest, St. John of the Cross. What did he mean by "forgetfulness of creation"? I can't be sure, but here I will offer a conjecture. It might have something to do with this passage from the creation story in the book of Genesis, chapter 2:
"Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man."
The existential loneliness of Adam - and of all us - is expressed in naming. We perceive separate entities - in the case of the second chapter of Genesis, the animals - and name them. And by naming them, we reinforce our perception of them as separate from us and from each other. But as the story in Genesis suggests, we can't name our way out of this loneliness. The cure is to be found within. God takes a rib out of Adam's chest and from it forms the other half of the primordial couple.
The cure for our tragic isolation is the amputation and transmutation of the rib - which, metaphorically, is coming to consciousness that the entities surrounding us are not the names we give them, nor what is contained in the boundaries we impute to them in space and time. This divine surgery awakens us to a stupendous, ecstatic, flowing cosmic dance of relationships in which we're swept away. The mythic relationship of Eve and Adam is a whorl in the whirl of a universe in full communion.
How is this divine surgery performed, delivering the soul from that unyielding pang of wanting-it-knows-not-what?
A USC student friend of mine introduced me to an academic paper in Frontiers in Psychology entitled "Enhancing Health and Wellbeing through Immersion in Nature: A Conceptual Perspective Combining the Stoic and Buddhist Traditions": "Submorphic mindfulness is not just about introspection. It consists of two parts: (1) proprioceptive observing of sensations within our body, such as the four elements (earth, air, water, and fire), as well as (2) observing the same elements outside of the body in natural environments by sense perception, such as touching, hearing, and seeing. Anthropomorphic perspectives and the artificial barriers between human beings and the environment are questioned. In this way the intervention intends to facilitate the realization that the perceived division between the mental and physical, and human beings and the environment is not real. Rather these concepts are considered coupled." In other words, in meditation, focus on the transient impressions and sensations of experience, rather than on physical objects that produce them. Notice the pressure of wind on your face, and its sound, rather than focusing on the wind itself. "Submorphic" refers to the unitive experience that underlies the "morphic", or shaped, formed, and bounded aspect of separate phenomena. A beautiful example of it is what Dr. Stephan Harding, Resident Ecologist at Schumacher College, calls "encounter". In this enchanting video, he describes his meeting with a muntjac deer in the wilderness: "...really meeting something in a way that goes beyond an intellectual process." He faces the deer, and the deer faces him, and he begins to experience it in a submorphic manner, on its own terms, beyond the names and ideas that he brought with him to the encounter.
Ironically, discovering that there was a name for something I'd already experienced in contemplative prayer was exciting for me! And it has helped me be more intentional about practicing it in my walking meditations.
Thus I forget creation as a collection of products of divine creativity that are separate from me and each other, and remember the Holy in whom all are One. I attend to what is within, and that leads me to love the Beloved Lover within and all around me.