A Summer Contemplation
Chapter 13 — Step 5: Revolve
“I swear Earth shall surely be complete to him or her who shall be complete, The Earth remains jagged and broken only to him or her who remains jagged and broken.”
— WALT WHITMAN, A Song of the Rolling Earth
“Those that don’t got it, can’t show it. Those that got it, can’t hide it.”
— ZORA NEALE HURSTON
The Seasons of Summer
Summer is the gentle euphoria that follows the peak of an inhalation. It’s the intimate and ultimate union of above and below that triumphs in expansiveness and receptiveness. It’s the rich and colorful display of peak existence. The sun is brilliant. The skies are blue and spacious. The natural world experiences warmth and wholeness. Trees bear sweet fruit. Birds sing. Children play. The natural world is orderly and in full glory.
The Summer of the precessional cycle is a Golden Age. The climate is mild. The sun is nurturing once again. Food is abundant. Animal and human populations are flourishing. The Earth’s ecosystems thrive. Humanity is once again clear and kind. People govern themselves, regard others as equals, and live in harmony with each other, the creatures of the world, Earth and sky, having recently experienced, again, how uncertain the world is and how fragile life is. The flavor of this season is empathetic joy.
As we practiced the previous four Steps, we began to tame and train the mind, and realign with the seasons of life and existence, in every moment. We begin to recognize that life is tough for all living beings here in Earth. This awareness of pervasive uncertainty and the knowledge that we’re not separate from anything keeps us adaptable and kind, in the heart of the matter. We begin to continually reset all our personal systems in relationship to this place that we exist innately embedded in and utterly dependent on for sustenance and survival and we begin to deeply feltsense and comprehend how it actually operates, both ‘in here’ and ‘out there’ (which are one space). In this practice, we are becoming effectively contented while refining the circumstances of life and society with beneficial intentions and actions.
This process creates the conditions for us to move out of our numbed, infantilized and destructive madness of alienation and self-obsession. Like a water lily that rises out of the muddy water to meet the sun’s rays, we pass through the muck and thorns of life into an illuminating clarity that contacts and experiences the world clearly and directly just as it is. We create the conditions for a well-seasoned life in which we are acutely clear, connected in kindness, confident, and effectively contented. This effective, renewable contentment is the condition that lets us recognize our birthright of sustainable happiness — no matter what circumstances arise. The fruit that blossoms from the flower of renewable contentment is a rare happiness. This happiness is only made possible by the set of conditions that we create internally and then radiate externally as we continue to practice the four previous Steps: Reflecting (Late Summer), Releasing (Autumn), Realizing (Winter), Refining (Spring).
A songbird singing, a gurgling creek, a loved one’s touch, the taste of the season’s first ripe strawberries, a child’s laughter, the smell of earth after rain, that song we love …
Traffic’s roar, shrieking sirens, the stink of exhaust, economic realities, toxic waste, the cry of hungry children, earthquakes, catastrophic weather, endless wars, anxiety and sickness, the gap at the end of time, the sky falling on our heads …
With the four previous Steps we can refine our perception and understanding of everything we meet in the course of our lives with our attentive, moderated, clear, kind, effective, and contented presence. This engaged journey through the dynamic seasons of life and existence now begins to bear Summer’s fruit: it’s the recipe for sustainable happiness, no matter what’s happening in our lives and the world.
For many, the idea that we can meet the muck and thorns of life with a happiness born of contentment is regarded with skepticism or dismissed. It creates cognitive dissonance. They’ll ask “How can we be happy knowing that there’s no solid ground?” To these people, happiness in the face of uncertainty seems like denial or dementia, or an act. It just doesn’t compute. For them, muck and thorns are serious business and happiness isn’t an option. But we don’t have to be miserable just because conditioned circumstances are doing what they do, and we don’t have to unconsciously react to them with habitual patterns of grabbing at and pushing away. We don’t need to fix everything before we can be happy (and we can’t fix everything because everything is always changing). We can wisely deal with the endless muck and thorns of life with clarity and kindness and we can be effectively contented and happy while we do it. Happiness isn’t found in the doing; it’s a way of being as we effectively do what needs to be done. This organic happiness emerges from the inside out and we know it without concept or expectation. It richly emerges right out of the messy experience of life, just as daylight emerges from the darkness of night.
The ultimate truths and experiences of life are found in the most conventional everyday circumstances if we directly meet them with unflinchingly clear vision and a kind heart. Our fear that something important is missing from our lives and that a vital connection is broken occurs only because we have an inaccurate vision of what we are and where we are, and because we’ve gotten lost in our fictions of separate, solid, and certain. We’ve been cultivating an enormous failure of imagination and have been stifling our broken hearts, with the help and guidance of the greedy and aggressive among us. When we stop clutching at our fantasies of solid ground and cease propping up an illusion of a separate, solid, certain self, we can begin to create the conditions for sustainable happiness.
This rare happiness is the birthplace of imagination and fruitful possibility — we’re no longer exhausted, bankrupt, creatively stagnant, and psychically numbed. We’re not dragged around by emotional reaction to circumstances. The seasons of time move more smoothly through us. The rivers of life flow through our being and we pour forth in all our uniqueness, in the service of the common good. We come to fruition: we live a fruitfully and die with ease when we run out of life.
Here is the optimal progression of thought and acknowledgement, which expresses the path to this happiness:
• There is nature.
• There are patterns and processes operating within nature.
• We can reunite with the actuality of nature through the cultivation of a consciously reciprocal relationship with its patterns and processes.
• Our perceptual reunion with nature gives flower to effective renewable contentment.
• The flower of contentment produces the fruit of sustainable happiness.
Another way of understanding this is in terms of health and medicine:
• There’s a problem: our rejection and erasure of nature has made us deeply crazy.
• There’s a cause of the problem: the way we think is inconsistent with nature’s patterns and processes.
• There’s a cure for the problem: a way of knowing that is sensitive and receptive to the essences and movements of nature that unite all living beings.
• There’s a method for applying the cure: cultivating intentions and actions that are informed by a conscious union with the patterns and processes of Earth and sky.
• There’s a predictable result: real happiness and wellbeing that serve as preventative medicine to stay sane, and which we apply to the inevitable muck and thorns of life.
The same principles can be simply expressed as a method:
Reflect, Release, Realize, Refine, Revolve.
There’s nothing supernatural about sustainable happiness, and it is very different from the fleeting satisfaction we get from little pleasures that we endlessly chase after. After years of studying happiness and the lack of it in the world, I’ve come to define it as a profound, humble, lighted joy that pours forth from the deepest depths of our being when we live the open receptive path, free from self-absorbed fictions and unmoderated hungers and fears, and when we kindly extend ourselves to others in service of the common good. Like a clear, clean, life-giving river, this happiness is an expansive, flowing sweet state of mind that results in a sense of wellbeing and enjoyment of life that’s acutely aware of, but that isn’t driven by or or overshadowed by external conditions. It’s a delighted and grateful acknowledgment that we’re an integral element of the Earth / Sky / Space continuum and inseparable from its essences and seasons. It’s an ongoing process, not a goalpost. A verb, not a noun.
This happiness is a way of life that as a society we no longer value and have mostly forgotten. Sadly, many people now don’t even believe that happiness is a possibility. We can’t conceptually convince ourselves that we’re happy any more than we can think a flower into bloom — we can fool ourselves and others, but not for long. We can’t buy it. Drugs and alcohol won’t produce it. Achievements and status won’t secure it. We first need to create the internal conditions that result in clarity and kindness, and let these shape our intentions and guide our actions in the external arenas of life, creating an effective contentment. This will then, effortlessly, give rise to a very real and sustainable happiness, no matter what circumstances are swirling around us. It’s the paradoxical center of what our ancient ancestors all over the globe patiently recorded and preserved for us: dissolving the fiction of a separated, solid and certain self and the resulting unskillful habits of mind and action that contribute to discontentment and disorder, in turn enables a richer, truer sense of being that’s not perceived as separate from the environments in which we’re embedded. This integration results in a refined and refining contentment that creates the conditions for sustainable happiness.
Sustainable happiness is necessary for the human community to survive and thrive during the great changes and challenges we’re all facing as we move deeper into the declining seasons of the precessional cycle, and as they move through us and move us. Without it, the human species goes mad and becomes discontented, diseased, and even dangerous to ourselves and all of life. The five step descending and ascending journey described in this book provides us with a practical and simple process of familiarization training that results in a conscious connection with the natural world, each other, our body-based senses, our hearts and our minds. And this connection, in turn, results in an enduring, life-enhancing, sustainable happiness.
Why Is the Fifth Step Called Revolve?
The fundamental nature of this place we find ourselves in is cyclical. We exist in relationship to the repeating seasons of time and corresponding movements of energy at all levels of existence, within and without. The universe revolves in the swirling tides of an oceanic multiversal space. The galaxy treads a revolution in the universe. The solar system dances around and around the center of the galaxy. Earth revolves around the sun through the twelve incremental time zones of the precessional cycle. The lunar cycle revolves through waxing and waning phases. The annual seasons revolve, as do night and day. We revolve through states of sleeping and waking, and through twelve two-hour states of increasing and decreasing energy that alternate during the course of the twenty-four-hour day. Our breathing revolves, in and out. The revolving seasonal pulse of existence is ceaseless:
Spring, Summer, Late Summer, Fall, Winter …
Generation, Expansion, Degeneration, Dissolution, Dormancy …
Birth, Aging, Sickness, Dying, Death …
When we consciously open ourselves to the rotations and punctuations of the scale invariant seasons that are inherent to all levels of our being and existence, then circumstances may affect us, but they no longer enslave and define us. We see them for what they are: passing phenomena created by past and existing conditions. We recognize them as essential parts of the path, in the same way as when we drive down a familiar road we know well and are prepared for sharp curves, dangerous intersections, and the possibility of unexpected obstacles, as well as enjoying our favorite tree, a beautiful vista, a delightfully unexpected rainbow or sunset. We’ve developed a relationship with the potholes and bumps in the road, and with the beauty that surrounds us in everyday life. We can be informed by the myriad cycles that we’re embedded in and cultivate a reciprocal relationship with them through our clarity, kindness, and refined intentions and actions. We can fruitfully work with their beneficial essences and manage their disrupting effects skillfully. With the Five Steps, we radically remap our internal landscape, incorporating a growing knowledge of where we are and what time it is. We skillfully integrate what we’ve mistakenly perceived as an independent separate self with all other living beings in this fragile, beautiful, dangerous, endlessly twirling, living planet. Happiness is the natural result.
“Let it come like wildflowers, suddenly, because the field must have it: wildpeace.”
— YEHUDA AMICHAI
When we’re accomplished practitioners of these Five Steps, we’ll find that we’re moving effortlessly and effectively on the narrow, slippery path between one uncertain moment and the next, the rough phase transitions between seasons of life, and between this degenerating world and the new world that has yet to reveal itself. We’ll continuously align the beat of our heart with the groove of the natural world and celestial mechanics. We’ll light up this uncertain path between moments and worlds with our radiant clarity and warm kindness, and transform it with our effective, renewable contentment and sustainable happiness. We’ll see how magnificent life, the earthsphere, and the cosmosphere really are. We’ll experience the magnificence of actuality — the magnification, or making real, of actual existence. There’s nothing mysterious about actuality: it means how it is, not how we think it is. Then we’ll walk the path of beauty, fully aware of both the jolts and the essences of our living, moving world, and we’ll be committed to maintaining peaceful balance in our place in it, for the common good.
When we practice the Five Steps, we reverse this dissatisfying, diseasing, and endangering cycle:
Deny, Defend, Delude, Degrade, Destruct
… into its mirror opposite:
Reflect, Release, Realize, Refine, Revolve
… and from no solid ground, we create sustainable happiness, even in the midst of uncertainty and chaos.
There are no marketing strategies, conforming dogmas, economic and political circumstances, terrestrial catastrophes that can stop these Five Steps from transforming the climate of the human mind and society — no matter what the conditions of the earthsphere and cosmosphere. Orthodox institutions and corporate organizations have no effective means to subvert the power of renewable contentment and sustainable happiness, though they’ll try. They’re finished, as this world era is finishing. They just don’t know it yet. The Five Steps have the potential to dissolve the entrenched patterns of greed and aggression that churn modern society, and that result in a stark and dangerous absence of contentment and happiness, by dissolving these patterns within us. The Five Steps will build a world where they cannot operate and within which they will eventually cease being created. We need to be committed and patient but not complacent in our practice of these Steps as this exhausted world era falls apart. We can be happy, but first we must change our mind.
“The superior person, when resting in safety, does not forget that danger may come.”
— Attributed to KONGZI, Chinese mythological character,
So we’ve completed our journey here? Nope … we’re just beginning. There’s no magical place where happiness is a given. We can’t turn this cultivated happiness into solid ground, because there is no solid ground to be found anywhere in all of existence or this personal existence. Big happiness is conditional and necessarily temporary, and intimately bound up with the muck and thorns of life. We can’t hold on to this profoundly real happiness any more than we can halt the celestial mechanics that, with frequent, forecastable, near-term, peer-reviewed periodicity, radically weakens the terrestrial electromagnetic field that all life in Earth depends on for life, dangerously disorders terrestrial operating systems, mass extincts life and places the collective human biological organism in a very real existential crisis, over and over again.
There’s something very interesting about the word ‘revolve’. It derives from the Old French revolver which means to reflect upon, which derives from the Latin revolvo which means to turn over, roll back, return to, words that mirror the Great Return and the gyring celestial mechanics that endlessly move Earth. After you’ve been practicing the Five Steps and related exercises for a while, at some point you will likely spontaneously experience a quietly profound happiness that you have never experienced before. However, this rare happiness is only sustainable if we return to the first Step and again reflect upon the uncertain circumstances of life and existence, to see the mirror reflection of the world. To see the other hemisphere of our existence, that we tend to blind ourselves to.
This is revolution in action: attentively meeting every circumstance, problem, and catastrophe facing us with the sweet fruition of sustainable happiness. Reflect, Release, Realize, Refine, Revolve. We practice these Five Steps so that we can conscioysly bring this hard-earned and rewarding state of being effectively to the inevitable toughness of life. We return to and again Reflect on life’s tough circumstances while bringing this hard earned happiness to them, and then again Release whatever blinds and corrupts, accurately and directly Realize the heart of the matter in each moment, and Refine our intentions and actions on an ongoing basis — over and over as we Revolve, in conscious relationship with the continuously changing nature of circumstances, because everything is always on the move:
Spring, Summer, Late Summer, Fall, Winter …
Generation, Expansion, Degeneration, Dissolution, Dormancy …
Birth, Aging, Sickness, Dying, Death …
We reflect our happiness onto the inevitable tough grinding circumstances of life and create fresh happiness on an ongoing basis as we easily move through the Steps in every moment until they naturally constitute our vision and way of life. Then we won’t need concepts like Reflect, Release, Realize, Refine, Revolve. We can then set these down and just live in real freedom. This freedom is our human birthright.
There is no solid ground. Uncertainty is the birthplace of renewable contentment and sustainable happiness. Contentment and happiness are the only true revolution. It’s up to you, and it’s getting late …
[ from No Solid Ground: Renewable Contentment and Sustainable Happiness in an Age of Uncertainty. Rights reserved, 2014 ]