By what authority do you breathe and live?”
the voice demands of me.
“How dare you drink so freely from the waters of life
bathing at the spring’s source
as if you belong! As if you are one of us!
By whose permission do you plant
the soles of your feet into the soil?
How dare you relax into simple presence and being?
Who told you the secret of passing the guardians at the Gate?
This voice questions not just my worthiness
but my very right to existence.
His thirsty flames lick at the drumbeats of my heart
with seductions into fear and separation
leaving no loyalty to another untouched or safe
from the jealousy of his righteous fire.
I know what they say and caution
that like a ferocious beast of the wilds
no man can look into the eyes of God and live
yet I breath and walk and talk still
and am convinced it was the unwavering of my gaze
a passion for the truth of his being—and mine
that gave him pause and me peace enough
for surrendering to embracing even the body’s hungers for itself
discovering innate wholeness first as a game trail and then…
then an embodied map of return already living within
where starving for a full inhalation
fresh air flows slowly into lungs
that must first empty of fear
yet trust and the know-hows of re-birthing are gained by the Phoenix
only by risking the passageways of it’s demise
but once ventured inspire and in-form spirit bone flesh and wing
offering ash and humus enough for the seed of Life’s rooting and nourishment
as I release my grasp on what I think most precious
long enough to reach deeply into the bones of my being
for a potency living hidden in rhizomes of my soul where
My hand, the right hand of my heart
extends from my chest and rises off my lap
lays its naked self down
touching bare Earth—palm down—
“She is my authority!” I announce.
An agitated whirl of wind encircles me in response
spiraling about as if looking
for where its anger might rest.
“Who taught you this forbidden knowledge?”
“The trees, the forests, the waters and rivers,
the sun and moon and stars—the soil itself…
They all whisper…sing of these freedoms,” I say.
“They teach me.”
“Who are you?,” he asks, unmasked at last
a shadowy parasite within clearly perceived
a gatekeeper resigned it seems
to the learning of a dance new to each of us.
Tongue and mouth find themselves animated
roused by a mind and heart larger than my own
they move with spontaneous volition
announcing the freshly owned
“I am…that I am.”
Notes & Reflections:
For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
— Deuteronomy 4:24
Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. — Genesis 3:22-24
And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. — Exodus 3:14
It is time for me to let this piece go lest the guardians consume it with their critiques of inadequacy. As epic mytho-poetic memoir it is highly personal, reflecting the God of my youth whose righteous judgments live in my system still, apparently, and who would destroy me for the abandonment of inherited truth. The personal story is the discovery of inner revelations in which an ancient story of human unworthiness and separation are seen through as the lies of western religious literal traditions—which themselves now serve as gatekeepers against the human spirit from returning to the garden of our birthright.
The piece is more than memoir however; it is my prayer for and vision of our potential human journey. Expelled from the Eden of our unconscious belonging, we have long wandered through the amnesia that is our separation from that very belonging—that is also our birthright. Our spiritual re-birthing is the conscious reclamation of that belonging as we humbly own our response-able place on the Tree of Life as co-creative participants in a grand journey into mystery.
I embraced that mystery when I recently made a visit to my dear brother in Kenya, Emmanuel Karisa Baya, a journey from which I am yet freshly returned. The adventure moves in me yet as I hear the echos of Emmanuel speaking of his personal philosophy which he refers to as, Peace Through the Soil. Indeed this post is rightly dedicated to you, my brother, as its initial scratchings of ink onto paper began on the flight from Washington, DC to Frankfurt, from where I flew to Nairobi, in Kenya, on my pilgrimage of hope for humanity.
Flying into the darkness of the deepening night in the dimly lite airline cabin, with the muffled roar of jet engines and fellow passengers either attempting sleep or quietly watching movies or perhaps reading or…, I felt and opened to the call of my own soul, calling me home to Africa. I felt the ancestral DNA of the “mitochondrial Eve” in the cells of my body pulling me into the risk of spiritual and physical adventure, into risking my identity.
Can I let go of judgments and expectations…allow people and culture to be as they are without imposing the narrowness of my mind’s preferences and familiarity? Can I relax moment by moment into the blossoming unfoldment of ‘what is?’ Can I allow myself to be at home, in this body, wherever I may be?
Who will I be if I let the naked soles of my feet walk on bare African soil? What will happen to me if I look out into the star speckled darkness of an African night, under the same configuration of stars my ancestors navigated by in their migrations out of the homeland? Where will my soul land if it lets this collective story of human emergence and planetary wandering into my personal story of identity? What will it be like to allow the presence of my African brothers and sisters into my heart, into my body and spirit and soul, as family? And what of the animals? The elephants and giraffes and zebras and buffalo and rhinos and hippos and … how might they speak to me? And the trees? The plants? What songs might I hear?
The animals and trees and plants do all sing and speak, you know. The stars too. I hear them singing in a grand chorus when I get quiet, especially on dark nights and on my forest wanders. It is this world of wild nature that has and yet guides me in the reclamation of my own soul and spirit from the mythical story of human separation and superiority.
Our collective future depends upon this awakening of spirit to our innate belonging and worthiness for life. Only then can we belong to place, to Earth and cosmos as home. This is what it is to become indigenous again, to be at one with the soil under our feet and with the ‘more than human world‘ of our kin.
Ironically, we can only come to indigeneity individually… and ironically each individual awakening adds to the wave of rising awareness not only of our dire predicament and time, but also to the growing field of conscious presence and belonging on the planet. Thus our individuality is paradoxically both myth and truth; we are born of and exist only through the grace of ‘All Our Relations,’ through the grace of community.
And it is the nature of this grace to allow us to know ourselves only through encounters with the other… with another self, and so god is simultaneously both ‘out there’ and ‘in here.’ Seen this way, the two of us are both ‘One,’ and ‘Not One.’
I now think of this at times, since returning from Kenya, as the ‘way of the soil,’ for one might say, the soil knows it all. We are reveled to ourselves through our care for the soil, should we care to look and we are, after all, just walking talking feeling and occasionally thinking bags of soil and water. We are also star-dust on a journey of becoming conscious of ourselves, of our true belonging and identity. Learning to listen to the soil in the context of this wholeness—teaches me peace with this grand identity, with my little self and with my neighbors and in the world.
This is the skill my brother Emmanuel helps some 250 Kenyan orphans and youth at risk learn at the Magarini Children Centre and Organic Demonstration Farm. My pilgrimage revealed and confirmed there is indeed a seed of hope for humanity sprouting in Kenya at the Centre. The know-hows of finding peace through the soil is there being embedded in young hearts and minds and is seeking to blossom in the surrounding community and… if you stand on the soil with your bare feet… and allow yourself to sense into that connection and relationship… I bet you can feel it too.
“The old ones say they could know how a brother or sister was doing, over long distances, by listening for their feet on the soil,” Emmanuel tells me. He goes on: “There are many people on the planet but not all people are human.”
“Can you say more of what you mean by this,” I ask.
“To be human is to care,” he says. “It is to know how to care for the children and the soil, for the trees and animals. Not all people care if you hurt… only humans care.”
To Emmanuel’s perspective I might now add: Among all the 7.6 billion people now on the planet, only the truly ‘human-kind’ can pass the guardians and know the gifts of becoming indigenous again.
“I and the Father are one.” — John 3:10
“This universe, before it was created, existed as Brahman. ‘I am Brahman;’ thus did Brahman know himself. Knowing himself, he became the Self of all beings. Among the gods, he who awakened to the knowledge of the Self became Brahman; and the same was true among the seers. The seer Vamadeva, realizing Brahman, knew that he himself was the Self of mankind as well as of the sun. Therefore, now also, whoever realizes Brahman knows that he himself is the Self in all creatures. Even the gods cannot harm such a man, since he becomes their innermost Self. Now if a man worship Brahman, thinking Brahman is one and he another, he has not the true knowledge.” — Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1:4:10
“And to this day whoever in like manner knows It as, ‘I am Brahman’, becomes all this (universe). Even the gods cannot prevail against him, for he becomes their self. While he who worships another god thinking, ‘He is one, and I am another’, does not know. He is like an animal to the gods. As many animals serve a man, so does each man serve the gods. Even if one animal is taken away, it causes anguish, what should one say of many animals? Therefore it is not liked by them that men should know this. — Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Madhavananda’s rendition