“The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from and where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the spirit.”
Jesus’ beautiful words from John 3 about the nature of consciousness remind me of what I learned from Zen. Becoming conscious requires dropping preconceptions and embracing paradox.
“The wind blows where it chooses…” A friend once told me he was being “stubborn” because he had to. He said, “Otherwise, one is like a leaf in the wind.”
I said, “Everyone I have ever known who is enlightened says it is like being a leaf in the wind.”
A paradox is that when one blows in the wind like a leaf, one needs to be grounded. It is important to be grounded. If not, the flight into the ether may be so exhilarating one spirals out of control.
It is important in order to be grounded and at the same time fly, that one develop consciousness in all its manifestations. I am not an expert in anything. I only think about these things and try. But I think there are four kinds of consciousness one must strive to master: spiritual, intellectual, emotional, and physical.
Although we must, for our health and well-being, work to master consciousness in its totality, it is not possible to actually achieve that. I told the Rev. Gordon Blue, our Episcopal church rector, about my idea for this article.
He said, “Consciousness is slippery. You think you have grasped it, but you have not.”
Spiritual consciousness is not served well by absolute certainty. I have two anecdotes that illustrate this. First, about 30 years ago, I left the house in the evening. An inner voice said, “You had better get the cats in.” But my own voice said, “I’m only going to be gone a half hour.” I had to be gone for hours, though. My cat was trapped and lost for nine horrific days. Since then, motivated by our mutual misery, I have worked to become more spiritually conscious.
But fast forward 30 years. I was outside with a porcupine at the door. My cat was also outside. The inner voice said, “You had better take the cat in.” But I said, “Cats are good with porcupines.” My cat walked right by the porcupine’s tail! I was horrified at myself. For the second time, I had allowed a cat to be hurt. I learned I must keep working and stop thinking I’ve got it.
“Intellectual” consciousness means foremost to me that one is aware of what one does and says. It is amazing how helpful it is to go through one’s daily life while looking at and seeing what is happening. It is amazing how many people have such gaps in their consciousness that they live in a fog. But of course, all of us live in a fog to one extent or another.
“Emotional” consciousness is liberating. I found a good definition in a recent New Yorker letter, May 17. John D. Mayer, a professor of psychology, writes, “Emotional intelligence is the ability to accurately perceive, utilize, reason about, and manage one’s feelings.” I try to keep my emotions on a “philosophical” level. About this effort, he writes, “A person who is indignant about injustice can channel that energy into effecting change.”
Add “physical” consciousness into the mix, and you have a whole, integrated human being. One needs to look inside to see what is there and what needs fixing. Just that process alone brings healing. We see that our bodies are capable of wonders.
A May 10 New Yorker article by Matthew Huston, “Growing It Back,” is about the marvelous ability of our bodies to regenerate. He quotes a scientist working on this, “Limbs and tissues besides the brain might be able, at some primitive level, to remember, think and act.” The mechanism for that astonishing activity is “codes of electrical charges.”
Let’s all use our electrical charges! Let’s fly with the energy. But it can’t happen all at once. It takes time. It takes work. But, wow, is it wonderful!
•Page Bridges is a member of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. “Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders. It appears every Friday on the Juneau Empire’s Faith page.