Continued from Chapter 17.
The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness. John Muir
By Richard Juarez
I was so excited about this trip to the mountains that I arrived early, and waited for Tony and Don Emilio. When we were finally ready to go, I jumped into the back seat of Tata’s car. Tony sat up front. We took Interstate 8 out to Cuyamaca State Park. It was a nice drive, watching the scenery change from the dry, mostly golden colors of the lower elevation brush, to the greens and browns of oaks and pines, and reddish browns of manzanitas at the higher elevations.
Don Emilio pulled into at the Paso Picacho campground and parked in the picnic area. It felt good to get out and walk around after sitting in the car for an hour. And it was great to breathe in the clean mountain air with its pine tree fragrance. It was a beautiful sight looking across the green and mostly yellow meadow to the green hillside camping area thickly covered with pine and oak trees. Although the late October morning was cool, I knew it would warm up during the day.
“Are you boys ready to start our session?” Don Emilio led us over to one of the wooden picnic benches. The dark brown paint looked recent, but I could tell that the benches had been there a long time. The edges of the wood had been worn smooth by many years of use. People had carved their initials on the table, some barely visible under the paint, and some so deep into the wood that the paint couldn’t cover them up.
“Man, I was just getting into walking,” said Tony, sounding a bit disappointed. “Afterward, are we gonna have time to walk around, take a hike, stuff like that?”
“Not after––during.” We will walk through the forest, and by the time we leave I think you will feel you had quite an interesting hike out in nature. Then, as I promised, we will hike in another location and see if we can find eagles in their natural habitat.”
“Yes!” I blurted. “That’s what I’ve been waiting for! Last night I meditated on my eagle power animal, and like you said, I asked him to join us today. Before going to sleep I even tried the power animal journey. I was able to connect for a little while, but I was too excited about doing the real thing to get much out of that attempt. And during the night I even dreamed again about flying as an eagle. I just know I’m gonna see eagles today!”
Don Emilio looked at me and smiled. Then he said our usual opening prayer, and after that closed his eyes and sat in silence for a little while. Finally he opened his eyes and spoke.
“We are here to connect with Mother Earth and the spirits of nature. So, to begin, we are going to do a different type of focused-awareness exercise today. This one is to ground you, to help you feel more connected to the earth, and to allow you to be a connection between the earth and the sky. Close your eyes and relax your body as usual. Take in a few deep breaths.”
He waited for us to take in those deep breaths. Tony remarked how good it felt to breathe in the cool mountain air. I nodded in agreement, not wanting to speak as I sat there very relaxed.
“Breathe normally now, as we begin the rain of light meditation,” said Don Emilio. “Do as before and focus on the rain of light energy entering the top of your head. As you breathe in, feel it begin to fill you up. Now, imagine that you have long thin filaments of light, like roots, extending out from your feet, and penetrating deep into the ground. On a few out-breaths, send energy out through your feet and through those thin filaments, into the earth. Besides feeling physically better yourself, you can feel good knowing that you are serving as a connection for the transfer of healing light between the Great Spirit and the earth. Continue visualizing this exchange of energy from the universe through you into the earth.”
Don Emilio paused while Tony and I did as instructed, pulling in light energy on our in-breaths, and sending it into the earth on out-breaths. I was so focused on it that I was a little startled when I heard Don Emilio’s voice.
“As you come back,” continued Don Emilio, “I want you to keep your awareness just on the light energy raining down upon you and entering the top of your head. Stay seated for a few moments and maintain that peaceful, centered feeling. Your mind has been quiet for the past few minutes. We will maintain that quiet, peaceful feeling while walking.”
“We’re going to walk with our eyes closed?” Tony asked.
“No,” he chuckled, “but you will walk with your mind closed, keeping out your usual mind chatter as much as possible. You can open your eyes now.”
He pointed across the meadow to the base of the mountain. “We will start over there.” Tony quickly got up and led the way on the trail through the meadow, walking very quickly, and I was right behind him.
“Slow down a little,” Don Emilio called out. “We are not in any rush. Let us take today’s experience slowly, as it may be difficult to maintain focused-awareness while walking fast. Are you both still aware of the energy pouring through you, entering the top of your head?”
“Mm-hmm,” I said, nodding my head. Tony nodded his head too, but only after raising his eyebrows and putting his hands to his mouth with an expression of “oops.” Don Emilio smiled but didn’t say anything about it.
“Now as we hike,” said Don Emilio, “we will walk slowly and focus our awareness on each step, and where we are stepping. This is another focused-attention exercise that helps to stop the mind chatter. You can stop thinking about the energy coming down on your head now. I thought since we are walking you might like to try this walking meditation technique. Do not think or start up that mind chatter again. Just be aware as you walk. If you notice a pretty rock or flower, just acknowledge the thought and move on. Stay present and aware of what you are doing in the moment. Maintain your awareness of each step, as you lift one leg and put it down, then lift the other and put it down, step, by step, by step.”
“You know,” said Tony, “it is real hard to stay in that quiet and peaceful place, and listen to what you are saying, plus walk, without thinking about it! It’s like I’m losing some of it as we walk, and I’m not hearing all that you are saying.”
“Yes, I know this is difficult,” said Don Emilio, “because I am giving instructions for a process that requires not so much thinking but awareness, while processing instructions usually requires thinking. Do not worry.”
I felt the need to check what he was expecting us to do. “So we need to keep that calm, peaceful feeling, and be aware of our steps as we walk on this trail.”
“Yes. Be aware of each step that you take. That awareness will help maintain and enhance that peaceful feeling inside.”
Don Emilio stopped talking and looked at us. He was waiting to see if we had any more questions. I didn’t say anything. I was anxious to get hiking. Tony was quiet too. So Don Emilio nodded his head in the direction of the trailhead. We started walking side by side, but Tony was soon walking ahead of me. I was trying to be aware of each of my steps, so I needed to go slower. Tony hesitated when he noticed he was getting farther and farther ahead.
“It is okay to walk at different speeds,” said Don Emilio. “Walk at whatever speed makes you comfortable, while still being aware of your steps. If your mind starts to wander, bring your focus back to the act of lifting up your foot and placing it down.”
It wasn’t long before Tony had slowed down to my pace. After a while, Don Emilio spoke loudly, so we both could hear.
“You may find it easier to focus on either your left or right leg, as you walk, unless you are walking really slowly. At the pace you two are going, I would suggest that you pick one side.”
That was an interesting walking experience. I had to be constantly aware of the movement of my right leg as I lifted it and placed it down, and lifted again, but this eliminated most of my internal talking to myself. We had been walking for maybe thirty minutes when we came to a spot where the trail curved around the side of the hill and presented us with a view of a small valley. Don Emilio walked a few feet off the trail toward some boulders.
“This looks like a good place to sit,” said Don Emilio. “Let us talk about what you have been experiencing. Does your body feel any different from when we started?”
“I feel a little light-headed,” Tony said. “It went away as we talked about everything and started the walk. But now I feel it again.”
“I feel like that, too,” I said, “and sort of energized, like I could just keep on walking.”
“How did focusing on your steps compare to focusing on the light energy?” he asked.
“I was surprised,” I said. “I didn’t think I would be able to do as well while focusing on my walking, but once I got used to concentrating on my right side, I got into a rhythm and most of the inner chatter stayed away, maybe even more than with the raining energy.”
“Yeah, for me too,” added Tony, “maybe because it takes more concentration.”
“Anything else you are aware of right now?” he asked.
“Just that it feels really good being out here with all the trees and plants and flowers,” said Tony. “It’s really beautiful.”
“Yeah,” I said, nodding my head. “It really is.”
“Have either of you been here before?”
“A few times,” said Tony.
“Me too. I’ve come here with my family, during summer, for many years.”
“And how did it look to you last time you were here?”
“Well, now that you ask, it seems more beautiful now,” I answered. “The colors of the flowers seem brighter today, and the greens of the tree leaves and pine needles seem greener.”
“If you have been here many times before, how is it that the forest seems more beautiful and greener today?” asked Don Emilio.
“I don’t know,” said Tony. “Everything just seems different to me too, so bright and so alive. I think the change has to be in us. What’s making us see things this way today?”
“Very good, Antonio. The difference is in you. These focused-awareness exercises have helped cleanse your perception. While you focused your attention first on the rain of light coming down and entering your body, and then on your walking steps, you were in a state of heightened awareness. You were still right here, but your awareness shifted over to a place where you could see and understand more than you usually do. So you are much more aware of the beauty around you today. You both have done well. While you are in this heightened awareness would be a good time to talk about auras.”
“Auras? We talked about auras before,” I said. “That’s the energy around the body, right?”
“That’s like the halo they show in pictures of Jesus and the saints,” said Tony.
“Yes,” said Don Emilio, “but more than just a light around someone’s head. The aura is the energy body, which extends beyond the entire physical body. Every living thing has an aura.”
“And since everything is alive, everything has an aura,” chimed in Tony.
“Exactly,” said Don Emilio. “But the amount of life force energy in objects differs, so the auras will be different.”
“Come this way,” he said, rising from his boulder and walking a few feet to a spot where we could see across the valley. “We are going to look at the aura of trees. Focus your gaze on the tops of the trees on that small ridge across from us. As you continue to stare your eyes will tend to go cross-eyed. Don’t try to correct that too much. Let the double vision come, but keep your attention above the tops of the trees. When your vision changes from precise to slightly double you may see a layer of perhaps blue light extending along the tops of the trees.”
“Wow, right when you said blue light, I could see it!” I said.
“Hey man, I don’t see anything but the trees,” said Tony, sounding a bit frustrated.
“Try something different,” said Don Emilio. “Try focusing on the next grouping of trees in the distance behind those trees. When you do that, the trees in front will be slightly out of focus.”
“Yeah, got it!” Tony exclaimed. “Now I can see the blue light on the trees. I see the aura!”
“Okay, so now you can both see auras. You each focus a little differently to see the aura. If you practice this more, you will begin to see auras of people, and then later you may see the various colors within those auras. This will take much practice, however. You can practice on your own at any time by doing just as we did now. Perhaps you can help each other when either of you get stuck and cannot get it. Now let us continue our walk.”
We walked on the path for perhaps another ten or fifteen minutes, during which time Don Emilio continued to periodically remind us to be aware of lifting and placing our foot. While admiring the beautiful variety of plant life alongside the path, Tony and I both noticed a grouping of small yellow flowers within a growth of weeds. But what really got our attention was a fluttering within those weeds. The fluttering motion was a butterfly, the same pale yellow color as the flowers. Slowly, we moved up closer so we could see it better. What we found within that growth of weeds was a whole little world of very small flowers, small plants, butterflies, bugs, and new shoots of trees and plants that looked like tall trees.
“Whoa, is that amazing or what!” exclaimed Tony. “It’s almost like the butterfly was fluttering its wings so we would notice it and come take a look at its home. Look. It’s not moving much now.”
“It’s so amazing to see all these little players in this miniature forest, somewhat separated from the rest by these weeds,” I said.
“It looks like they’re protected by the weeds,” said Tony, “since the weeds both surround them and provide some cover over them.”
“Those are not weeds at all,” Don Emilio added, “but other plants, now dead or dying, all of which are an essential part of this interconnected family of plants and insects that coexist in this little part of the forest.”
“Yes! Everything is alive and interconnected. And those weeds, like you said, they aren’t weeds; they’re other plants that are part of this family.” I was talking loud and fast, I was so excited about our find. “I remember one day I was complaining about having to pull weeds in my yard. Tata and my father were there, and Tata talked about the connection between the insects and the birds and the weeds, but I didn’t understand what he meant. I heard the words but I didn’t get it. Now I get it! I really understand that they are so alive and interconnected. And this is just a smaller version of how the rest of the forest and the rest of the world is interconnected. I don’t know how I understand it, but inside of me I seem to know it. I can feel it!”
“This really is amazing,” said Tony. “I think now I also understand these connections. But it seems to be more than just being told, and then believing it. Feeling it seems to be the right word. Vincent, that quote you have about when people realize their oneness with the Universe and all its powers—man, that makes a lot more sense to me now.”
“Yeah, I always liked what it said. And now, like with my eagle dream, I can feel what it really means.”
Don Emilio looked at us and smiled. “This is what I meant when I said that this information is not something that can be taught, and that at some point you would just get it—that you would feel and understand it inside your being, not just through your rational mind.”
After being with this miniature forest for a while longer, we continued along the forest path. As we walked, I kept silently apologizing to the grasses in the path as I stepped on them. I had a new awareness of the life within each blade of grass and within all the beings in the forest, and a new awareness of my connection to them all. I continued to hold this awareness as we moved along the path. I heard the crickets chirping, saw the lizards and squirrels scurrying by, heard the birds calling, and saw amazingly beautiful plants and flowers. And I felt like I knew them all for the very first time, and knew them as a family, rather than just as individual beings.
After walking a while longer on the trail, Don Emilio called for us to stop. He walked off the trail a few feet and went up to a tall wide oak tree. He put his arms around the tree and hugged it for a few minutes. Tony and I just stood there on the trail waiting for him.
“I sure hope he isn’t going to tell us we have to start going around hugging trees,” Tony said quietly. “We’ll never live that down. I can just see us, hugging a tree on the way to school! Wait ‘til the guys see that. Wait ‘til the girls see that! We’ll be finished, man!”
Don Emilio turned around, looked at the tree, looked up at the sky, and then looked around on the ground on both sides of the trail. He pointed to a couple of small boulders about twenty feet away. “Sit over there, facing the old oak tree.” He followed and stood behind us as we looked toward the tree.
“I want you to take three deep breaths, and relax. And while you are sitting there relaxed, I want you to look at the tree. Notice its beautiful shape, the deep green of the leaves, and the unique texture of its gray-brown bark.” He paused to give us time to admire the tree. “You saw me hug the tree. I want you now to reach out with your energy and hug the tree from where you sit. Send energy out from your heart area to the tree, and just hold it in the warmth of your energy.”
We did that, and waited for Don Emilio to continue.
“This old oak tree has something to show you. Look at the tree’s branches, where you can see blue sky in the background. Pick out a thick branch and focus on that area. Look at that branch as if you were trying to see its aura. That is, stare at it and allow your eyes to go a little out of focus, like you were trying to focus at a point in the sky behind….”
“Oh my God!” Tony shouted. I knew what he was shouting about, because I saw it too.
“What is this?” he asked in a very animated manner. “I don’t believe what I’m seeing.”
I kept looking at the tree, because what I saw was just amazing. In my peripheral vision, I could see Tony dancing around excitedly with his hands raised in the air.
“What am I seeing?” he shouted. “Oh heck … I can’t see it anymore.” He had stopped his antics and was trying to see it again. “Don Emilio, how come I can’t see it now?”
I had blinked my eyes in wonder but was able to keep that ‘out of focus’ vision on the thick tree branch. I could see a kind of green stuff flowing along inside the tree branch, and somehow I knew this to be the life force of the tree. I stood there in awe, speechless, watching the flow. Suddenly I remembered seeing this before. It was in my dream.
“You are proving to be very powerful apprentice shamans, if I may go so far as to use that term. Not only have you proven yourselves able to see into another level of reality, but when you do not believe you can see what you are seeing, Tony, you are able to stop yourself from seeing it.” Don Emilio chuckled at his joke. “That is pretty powerful. And you, Vicente?”
“This is amazing. I’m just watching this bright green stuff flowing inside the branch. I saw this before, in my dream about the eagle. Is this the life force of the tree?”
“You are asking my confirmation for something you already know inside. That is one reason to have a teacher—to make you feel better about what you are experiencing, to ease your doubts. But you will get to a point where you just accept what you know, even if you wonder how you know. You just know. Yes, you are seeing what you know you are seeing.”
“How come we are able to see it now,” said Tony, “and we’ve never seen it before?”
“Your preparations have brought you gradually into a state of heightened awareness, because we have spent time in both sitting and walking focused attention. Plus we are here among these grand pines trees and wonderful old oak trees. They too are sentient beings, aware of the spiritual nature of your journey, and they are helping you. Also, our spirit guides and our higher selves have been communicating with the spirits of the forest. We have a lot of helpers with us right now.”
“I’m feeling strange, Don Emilio,” I said. “Part of me is thinking all this is very weird and scary. And another part knows it is not weird. It’s almost like I feel happy to see this, to feel connected to all this. I kinda feel caught in the middle of two sides here.”
“I’m not caught in no middle,” said Tony. “This is all too weird. Having x-ray vision to see this green stuff flowing inside a tree. No one would ever believe I saw it. I’m not sure I saw it.”
“These questions, these doubts, are good signs,” Don Emilio answered. “Your conscious self is remembering its connection to all things, and is asserting its knowing of what is true. You are beginning to learn that your mental side is not all there is to you. But the mental side is now trying to protect its dominance by telling you not to believe what you saw, what you call this weird, scary stuff. As you practice what we are learning here, you will become increasingly better able to differentiate between what that voice in your head tells you, and what your true essence knows is real.”
With that, Don Emilio turned and led the way as we walked back to the trail and continued our hike. As we walked through the forest, we continued the walking meditation. I found it amazing how easily the mind chatter stayed off as long as I was aware of lifting and placing my foot as I walked. As before, Tony and I moved out ahead of Don Emilio. After a long walk we came to the edge of another meadow, and Don Emilio called to us. He had walked out into the transition between the trees and the meadow and stood between two tall pines. In front of these pines were a variety of flowers and green plants. He waved us over to where he stood.
“I want you to tell me what kind of plants and trees you see right around us here.”
“Pine trees, oaks, and junipers,” I answered.
“Cedars, cottonwoods, manzanitas, and ferns,” said Tony.
“Flowers, lots of different flowers, but I don’t know their names,” I added.
“Okay boys, we are now going to do our final exercise, called the un-naming exercise. I want you to pick any one of those beings you just pointed out, and be with it. But erase the name from your memory. It is not a pine tree, not a fern. Just as your name is not ‘human being,’ its name is not ‘oak tree.’ Give each being the respect of not calling it by a generic name. By not calling it by a generic name, it stops being just one of thousands. Rather, it is the unique being right here with you. Pick one being and sit there with it.”
Don Emilio opened up his backpack and handed each of us our lunch bag.
“You can eat your lunch there. After you have spent a little time with this being, send energy out through your heart area and connect with it like you did when you practiced sending energy. Spend some time experiencing that heartfelt connection between you and this being. Once this being has had a chance to receive your energy and decode your feelings message, see if it has any information to share with you. We will get back together in about thirty minutes.”
With that, he swung the backpack onto one shoulder and walked back to the edge of the trail, where he stretched out on a large flat boulder under an oak tree.
I didn’t have to think much about which being to choose because I seem to have a real attachment to pine trees. I went over and sat in front of one of the big pines at the edge of the meadow and started in on my lunch. Once I was done eating, I did what Don Emilio said and sent energy out from my heart area to this being. Then I sat there for a while just feeling that connection.
Don Emilio knew what he was doing when he assigned this exercise. He didn’t tell us what would happen; he just set the stage. I hadn’t really expected to get any message. I didn’t hear specific words. But I knew what its message to me was. Like Don Emilio had said earlier, I just knew. The more I observed this being, the more I became aware of how intricate the life connections around it were. This was not a solitary being on the edge of the forest. Yes, it had other nearby trees, but it had so much more. Two squirrels ran up and down its trunk and below it on the ground, sometimes reaching for a pinecone that perhaps one of them had broken apart. They seemed to be picking out seeds from the pinecone. Later, a blue jay came up to the same pinecone to see if it could get any seeds, and then flew up to a nest high in the branches.
I could see that the decay from chewed-up pine cones and leaves, twigs, pine needles and branches had created a thriving living environment for a variety of flowers and small plants, all within the shade of this being. While I was watching, two butterflies came frolicking through, jumping from one flower to the next under this being before moving on to their next destination. I pushed my finger into the ground and realized it was more decaying plant material than dirt. I had to push farther in to get to actual solid dirt. In the dirt and decaying matter were little bugs in the process of making the ground suitable for growth of the flowers and plants, and occasionally making a nice lunch for the birds that lived above.
I thought about this magnificent being, and how it could only stand in one place all its life—stuck there in the ground, looking out over the meadow—how it wasn’t free like me to go where I wanted, to see what I wanted to see, to do what I wanted to do. Then something reminded me: I liked being up here, next to the trees and trails. Right then I noticed the being’s long branches seemingly reach out to show me the environment encompassed within its outstretched arms. That’s when I got the message. This being had an extended family made up of many species, not just trees. It was like a caretaker for these many little beings that lived within its immediate environment. It loved being what it was, and loved being connected to so many other life forms. And I knew that this being would not want to trade places with me. It would not want to be a human. It was totally and completely happy just being.
When Don Emilio came back, we told him about our experiences. Of course, he was not surprised. Tony’s experience was similar to mine.
“Today you were able to experience plants, flowers and trees, and birds, butterflies and insects very differently than you ever have. When you sent out energy from your heart area and connected with the being that you chose, you discovered that a wealth of information could be communicated to you, information about its connection to all things in its environment. When you paused to be with the old oak tree and you sent energy out from your heart to that wise old being, it shared an amazing sight with you. The beautiful little butterfly so enchanted you that you unconsciously opened up your heart energy and connected with it and its family. They showed you a hidden miniature environment, and you were able to understand the extent of the many energy connections in that little web of life.
“You learned to talk with your brothers of the plant and animal kingdoms by sending energy from your heart. While the mind needs words and sound to talk, you experienced more in-depth communication than can even be expressed in words, and you did it through heartfelt sharing of energy. This has been a good day, and we are not finished yet!”
Don Emilio turned and started walking back on the trail toward the car. He was right. It had been a good day. We had a lot to talk about, but my attention quickly shifted. As we followed behind him, I called out excitedly, “Are we going to go see the eagles now?”
Copyright © 2013 Richard Juarez
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Vicky Padilla says
What excited and interesting trip to the mountains!.I like the way how the Boys can connect with the nature.
Richard Juarez says
What better way to connect with the earth and with nature than to be in the mountains! For young people living in the inner-city, getting away to the mountains is especially beneficial. Some inner-city kids rarely get outside their own ‘hood. Spending time “being” with the trees and the plants and the wind can help young people discover there is much more to life than gangs, crime, old homes, traffic, noise, low paying jobs or unemployment, etc. It’s something completely different…that touches the soul.