Saturday, April 23, 2011
Mind in the Sand
I've been thinking lately about two things that at first might seem unrelated: my choice of a name for this Blog (Mind in the Sand) and a movie I saw last week about the present day Kogi people in Columbia.
The Kogi of Columbia survived the spanish conquistadors by fleeing deep into the immensity of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The escapees were not pursued due to the seemingly impenetrable terrain and were forgotten over time. The wisdom stories of their pre-columbian culture remained intact. They kept track of us over the centuries but we didn't know much about them. In the 1970's they became deeply concerned about the ecological imbalances that they were beginning to observe in their own mountainous backyard. The Kogi call it The Heart of the World and it is the immense watershed of their habitat. The deep snow that had fallen on its high regions for eons was now declining. No snowmelt = no water = trouble.
The Kogi, who call themselves the Elder Brothers, understood why this was happening. They had a warning to deliver to the Younger Brothers (all of us who live within the western paradigm) about our destructive influence on the global ecosystem. The Kogi believe that through their offerings and deep mental concentration emanating from The Heart of The World they had kept the world in balance. But now the rapacious actions of the Younger Brothers had tipped the scales to a potentially disastrous degree. They decided to breach their intentional isolation from all things Western. They sent an emissary out of the Sierra Nevada to learn spanish and figure out the best way to send a message to the world. They came up with a documentary filmmaker.
It was easy to nod yes to their warnings as I watched the movie. The white man has a god complex - check. We better knock it off if we want to survive - check. Less taking, more giving - check. Some of us Younger Sisters and Brothers have been saying the same thing for some time now. However, what REALLY grabbed my attention was the Kogi Elders' explanation of the role of the Mind in the manifestation of physical reality. Western quantum physics also indicates that the act of observation changes that which is being observed. Back in the day, I read the Tao of Physics and other related texts but somehow the technology of it all blocked my ability to feel the impact of the information. But as I watched the Kogi exert Mind, I understood it on a visceral level. I understood it as an artist.
The life of an artist is a different kind of life. For a very, very long time I've been watching my mind and faithfully noting in my drawing notebooks its desires, fascinations, attractions and repulsions . Channeling mind through physicality, I manifest the movement of thought in the form of paintings. I consider this previous sentence to be my job description. The Kogi harness the mind on a level that is light years ahead of my attempts to make good paintings. They train in INTENTION using an almost unspeakable level of diamond pointed concentration. They utilize ancient mental technologies that demonstrate the truth of the Buddhist saying - "thou art that". The world is in balance if the mind is in balance because they are one and the same.
OK, it's a movie. I haven't visited the Kogi and my deductions don't follow the scientific model. But let's just say the movie does paint an accurate portrait of the Kogi world. They value and cultivate mental balance and a deep attention to their relationship to natural systems. They live a very permaculture based life and, on average, make it to the age of 95. Their eco-system is lush, abundant and giving. How is your mental balance these days? How about the mental balance of your friends, co-workers and family? How is our ecosystem looking? I rest my case.
This brings me to the naming of this Blog. Some people might say (have said) that my decision to leave Los Angeles, come to the desert, stop watching television and grow a garden and all things garden-like is akin to an ostrich sticking her head in the sand at the threat of approaching danger (do ostrichs actually do that? ...But I digress). I say there's a big difference between putting your head in the sand and putting your MIND in the sand. The first implies a ridiculous attempt to escape a situation through half-assed sensory deprivation. The second implies a deepening of attention and concentration towards a heightened relationship between observer and observed. There is no doubt that I have deepened my attention to the ground on which I stand (read the ground of my being). After doing this for the last 7 years I observe that my environment has grown more abundant and balanced and my mind has done the same. I am happier, healthier and so seems to be the world immediately around me.
Consider this - I think one of the main reasons why the Renaissance took hold was that all the gifted envisioners were on board; all of them focusing Mind towards the same goal...well, that and the de' Medici money. All of that brilliance, will, creativity and visualization pulled Europe into the Renaissance paradigm. Not every citizen had to be on board at first, just the heavy duty visualizers. Of course, while the Renaissance might have started out as a good idea, it eventually led to an imbalanced materialism, an egocentric arrogance and our present predicament. Mind always needs to make adjustments. So here we are. The stakes are higher and we now have the ability to communicate our thoughts instantly and globally. The heavy duty visualizers are lining up. Some envision Armageddon. Some envision humanity in balance with nature and finally at peace. I like door #2. I'm joining up with both feet firmly planted on the ground, my eyes wide open and my Mind in the Sand.
Blog post header illustration - untitled, 2011, oil painting by me.