Within Stone (or The Altitude of Wu Wei)

My good friend, Nancy Hendrickson of TarotExplorer.com, strongly recommended that I go on an inner journey. Specifically, she suggested that I go to the heart of a stone and there talk to the Hierophant of the tarot and ask him about what the stones are trying to teach me just now — because clearly they are trying to teach me something.

The stone whose heart I’m going into was given to me by a good friend, Jerry George. It came all the way from the high land of Tibet to live with me. He had found several of these small, smooth, pieces of jade and had been surprised to find those particular stones in that place — he knows his geology and they would not have been expected to be there. Where had they come from? How did they get there? No one knew. He brought them all the way back, and for thirty years now he has carried one in his pocket. I carried mine in my pocket or in my purse. (Why do so many women’s clothes not have useful pockets?) Then a terrible thing happened — I lost it. It must be somewhere in my house, but I cannot find it. I feel bereft and ashamed, guilty of being careless of its well-being and special value — unless it ran away, which is also possible.

But tonight I realized that of course I still carry this precious stone in my heart along with many other stones — the standing stones of Calanais, the stones of the blessing cairn here at home, my outdoor altar at home, the cairn on Dun I on the Isle of Iona, Castlerigg stone circle, the huge lump of white quartz that I brought home in Scotland and eventually had to leave behind because the movers refused to try to lift it, and so many others, large and small. I can only begin to acknowledge them all. They live in my heart and sometimes I feel them murmuring in tones too deep, too slow to hear. Trees and other beings live there too, but tonight it is the stones who wish to speak, especially the small Tibetan stone that I have mislaid but that is still with me.

So I begin this journey within at the gate to my own heart. At this moment, it is a small wooden gate with hinges that squeek their own song, swinging loose in the wind. It opens itself for me, and I freely pass through.

The path to the stone is grassy — greenly aromatic, gentle underfoot. The stars in the dark sky above are shining brightly. A soft breeze lazily plays with my hair. Ahead in the darkness the stone rests on the ground. Although the stone I was given is quite small, here it is its true size, as big as a house. In front of me there is a door, the door to the heart of the stone. The door is small, just big enough for me to enter. All around its frame rune-like symbols are carved. The door swings itself open for me, and as I enter in, I see that it is a someone’s home. A bright fire burns on the hearth. On either side of the fire, turned so they both face each other and the fire, are two comfortable armchairs. I sit in the one on the left, and as I do, I remember that the dark column is on the left side of the High Priestess tarot card, so I am sitting in the yin, receiving place.

Faint shadows move in the other chair in the flickering light of the fire, and gradually the hierophant becomes visible. He is dressed like the pope, but in a shimmering cloth that seems to be all colors at once, even white, even black. I am distracted, fascinated by that cloth for a while and when I come back to the present moment, I see that the shadows have solidified, become someone visibly real. It is the hierophant. He grins at me, almost mischievously, as if inviting me to enjoy his neat arrival trick. Without moving, he is here, as if he had always been solidly and really here.

I rub my nose and apologize for having entered uninvited. He both acknowledges and dismisses my apology with a casual wave of his hand. “The first pope,” he elucidates didactically, “was Peter — and as you may recall “peter” comes from petra and means rock. He was the foundation rock of the church. I am not that pope, but I am the foundation, the true rock of the earth. Now, why are you here?”

I’m not sure of the answer — is “I was told to come” a true answer? My mind is a blank. Is this going to be one of those journeys? The ones that go nowhere? I think of leaving and coming back later, but know that only rarely do I come back to the same place again after leaving it. Catch the moment or let it go… which? I feel more like a butterfly than a rock — and how do butterflies communicate with rocks?

I rise from my chair and sit on the floor at this honored teacher’s feet.

“On these journeys of yours,” he prompts me, “you usually ask, what do I, the guide, need from you — remember?”.

I nod. I’ve only been making these intentional spirit journeys for a little under 50 years in this life — you’d think that by now I’d remember how to get back on track when I get lost. Why do I feel so confused?

Ummm. Because I’m not grounded. Here I am, sitting inside a rock, talking to Rock, sitting on the stone floor, and I am not grounded. I try to “sit like a mountain” as I do when I meditate. Not working — I’m still fluttering. How about sitting like a tree, roots running deep, leaves moving in the breeze?

My spirit self stubbornly persists in randomly floating like a butterfly. Why?

The hierophant’s intense dark eyes pin me in place, my invisible, intangible wings still fluttering. To him, to All Stone, I am like a butterfly — light, floaty, ephemeral. As permanent as a mayfly. It dawns on me that I can be nothing else! To the deep stone, I am impermanent, even evanescent. Fizzy me. I stop trying to be grounded like a stone and instead rise gently in the air. The stone I feel most like is a reverse meteor rising slowly up through the air, slipping free of gravity, burning in my moment of bright insight.

I have spent all of these years trying to be grounded. What am I, what will I be if I let myself go free — ephemeral, short-lived, momentary… floating? This is so relaxing. There is no effort in floating. Being a grounded, practical doer is so effortful… and exhausting. I remember with a feeling of d’oh! that I learned once before, long ago, how relaxing and healing it was to just float, just be free, be diffuse and unfocused. I even made a “meditation technique” of it and taught it to others. (At the right time in the right circumstances, this is a valuable skill  — but it is not a substitute for meditation or being well earthed in the right circumstances for that.)

At this realization, the rigid Stone around me melts and becomes Tree, branches waving in the breeze, roots reaching into Earthmama. Yet, though I may sit like a tree to meditate — usually — I am not a tree, not rooted. Mobile. Bouncy sometimes. Sometimes I flop down on Earthmama, my heart energy connected with her, sometimes I float on her waters or sit in the branches of trees, drifting.

Looking for my right place between the states of stone and vapor, I find my own specific gravity, the place where I am at home — the place of perfect balance, effortless, free, not holding, not releasing, just being. Sensing, noticing that this point changes moment by moment, like the balance of a surfer on a wave. The surfer, too, is in a medium where he neither sinks nor rises above — his natural place is on the boundary between. He bobs with the waves and with his own breath, a complex single movement flowing from many natural forces.

I have earth within me, solid bone, flesh, and bonded blood, and I have air and spirit within me, boundless. There is bright fire and flowing water too. All of the elements are part of me. My natural place is to be just as earthed as I need to be to do what I need to do at this moment. That’s it. That’s all.

Yet at other times I may need to soar freely to listen — to catch the messages that waft between the stars. Or at other present moments it may be time to be between the ebb and the flow to rest in my own specific gravity place — to rest, to restore, to recover, to recuperate, to regenerate, to re-create. Note that word STILL. Being connected to the universe, to stone beneath and stars above, is important. But it is equally important to allow Self to just BE, to rest, silent, not rigidly straight, not effortfully rising, but a living stillness that is in constant motion floating on the waves of the breath of the universe, letting my own breath be what it is and find its own harmony.

Tension is about holding an unnatural, inappropriate, or unskillful way of being. We know it is unnatural and unskillful because it requires tension to hold us there — how simple is that? Relaxation is about consciously letting go of that tension by focus and attention (“at tension” — isn’t that sneaky?) Both are doing. Peace is the place between, the point where nothing is needed, no action at all.

Wu wei.

Good God/dess, how could I have forgotten that?

Everything around me dissolves, becomes esse, being, even the man who is Stone. Nothing is left but a smile that isn’t even there.

Stones That Travel

jade-altar-stone

Earthquakes. as you know, are the results of the movement of stones, great tectonic plates slithering around beneath the surface of the earth, under the pressures of forces we barely begin to understand. Stones that move. Why? We make up reasons about the “how” but somehow don’t even think about the “why”.

Glaciers move. They are famous for it. And one of the things they move beneath their surfaces is stone. They chew great chunks of stone out of mountains, scraping and shattering and scattering, and they move smaller stones the size of a house or a shop or a bus. They even pick up tiny pebbles and grains of sand. They carry them all, sometimes for great distances.

Have you ever picked up a pebble from the beach and carried it around in your pocket? Why? Because it’s pretty? Because it sparkles? Because it has a unique shape or markings that look like… something? Because it might be precious? Because … just because? Consider flowers and how they attract insects to help fertilize them — scents, colors, even honey, the naughty things! And here we are picking up stones and carrying them around… why?

Suppose you carry a stone home and put it in your garden… what makes you want to do that? What is hidden in you, deep beneath the surface of your mind? More importantly, perhaps, what does the stone want? Is your garden its final destination? Or has it further travels simmering in its slow mind?

I have to admit that I do this. There are rocks in my garden that came from Scotland, from Wales and England, from Mount Laguna, from Hurricane Ridge, and from Pillar Bay. Wherever I go, I’m very apt to come home with my pockets full of small stones — and possibly a shopping bag for larger or more grubby rocks.

When we were about to move from Scotland back to the USA, my husband asked if he could throw my box of “random” stones and pebbles away. Galvanized, I leaped up and shouted, “Let me sort them first!”

“Never mind,” he muttered and packed the lot. We brought them all.

There is a stone in my garden, wild jade. According to my son, it weighs something between three and four hundred pounds — closer to four. It is the altar in my garden. We found it in the decomposed granite soil well beneath the surface where the fir and western red cedar trees grow.

The top of the stone was about three feet down, and it was discovered when we were digging a hole to hold a 1000 gallon water tank. My son put it where I wanted my altar to be. When I moved into town for few years it went with me, and when I moved back into the forest it came back again, my son grumbling all the way. It is smooth, dull green, with jade’s soapy feel but not a precious stone, except perhaps to me. In spite of the fact that I’m about 300 feet above sea level, it has white petrified barnacles (or something that looks so like barnacles that I can’t tell the difference) on one side of it. Is it a glacial erratic?

There is a lot of wild jade in this area, but I don’t know how far it traveled to get here. I know one thing though — if I were to move back to Scotland, it would go with me. It’s my altar, after all. A sacred stone, resting on the ground and beneath the surface of my heart and always with me.

Have you ever considered that all things might be alive? And conscious? Have you realized that our Earthmama is only soft in some places on the surface, and that beneath the surface, she is all stone, molten or rigid? And that she is in constant motion? Have you considered that we call her Earthmother, but we might more rightly call her Stonemother?

What if… just what if she creatively evolved all of us soft surface beings only to help shift stones around? In the distant past there have been several “die offs” where large portions of the soft surface life were eliminated from this planet. Was Stonemother simply clearing the way to evolve better movers of stone? From dynamite to bulldozers to denim pockets, are we (in the grand scheme of things) just facilitators for the movement of stone?

It’s something we have done since we began — simple stone tools, barrows and stone circles, stone huts, pyramids, marble temples, cathedrals, banks, grand homes — all of stone. We arranged the stones in beautiful patterns to show off their colors and lovely textures. We polished diamonds and rubies and quartz and all of the other scintillating, sparkling, seductive, glittering stones, and we wear them everywhere. “SHINY!” small girls shriek, and jewelers’ eyes gleam.

And now we build enormous structures: the huge buildings, the freeways and motorways — vast constructions of … cement. Certainly, it contains sand, and sometimes small rocks, but does it count? Have we gone wrong? Have we forgotten our true purpose in life?

We do know that we are facing yet another potential extinction period — is she planning to make room for even better movers of stone? Should we be focusing on this rather than carbon sequestration and changing temperatures?

It’s only a thought — please, don’t let it make you lie awake at night thinking about it. But I wonder, does Stonemother, or do the stones we have carried, know that we are alive and have feelings and thoughts in our own primitive way? Or do they see us as being like mayflies, flickering in and out in a moment, ephemeral? Have they any compassion for us at all?