It's been years since I've written a formal, referenced, serious-type academic paper, but I've committed to doing my best at trying to get some core ideas down on paper about contemporary wilderness rites of passage as a transpersonal ecopsychological practice that supports people's psycho-spiritual (i.e. internal) development and wholeness so that we may be more able to cope, and even flourish through potential upcoming chaos due to climate change, resource depletion and general environmental crisis caused by human activity.
If that sentence made your brain hurt, you can imagine how I feel!
I've been thinking too hard recently, and busy writing. I needed some space. So on a week ago Sunday, I drove west on I-80 out to the Great Salt Lake.
I have an interesting relationship with this gigantic primordial salty lake. I've rowed on it twice. I saw the Spiral Jetty for the first time a number of years ago when it first appeared after years of being submerged. In 2012, I danced in it with Matt, along with about 50 fellow citizens, at the marina. I've done a Global Earth Exchange at Black Rock. I've held a Grief Tending ritual near it. But it's not a place I would say I know well. It's hard to get access to it easily and it's smelly and muddy. Though in recent years my eyes have been opened to its stark beauty, it still feels like a strange place to me.
I drove west without a set plan, and ended up at Saltair, that big concrete concert venue on the site of a once elegant public bath house, just north of the marina and the Kennecott smelting tower. I'd never been there before. I was not the only one there on a sunny warm January afternoon, but I would not say it was crowded. I wandered out behind the building to find a fenced green lawn area and then a large area of open sand, good to walk on. Walking out on that sand, I discovered huge, wide, open sky . . . and just water and land, no buildings, roads or houses in a more-than -180-degree view.
You know how sometimes things just draw you, without knowing exactly why?
That morning, I'd participated in a free conference call with Amy Edelstein, whom I knew very little about, on the topic of Evolutionary Mysticism & A New Ecology. She spoke of Teilhard de Chardin, Jesuit priest and philosopher who wrote of his own felt sense of a cosmic undercurrent, a grand complexity that had directionality, that was always moving and changing. And of Alfred North Whitehead, mathematics genius who saw a unified order in creation and that novelty, new things not seen before, of the movement, the flux of some underlying process.
As she spoke of awakening to this mysterious process of constant movement in which we are all participating, I found myself feeling a strong connection to all things. Her words and probably her energy, as well as the energy of all the people on the call, drew me into communion. In that moment, sitting in my living room in an overstuffed chair with a view of the hazy winter city, an iPhone earbud in my ear . . . I became One With All Things, and all things in motion.
By the time I got to Saltair that afternoon, the strong sense of Being One With All Things had faded, though not entirely. Walking out onto the sandbar, I recalled the morning's phone call and made a conscious choice to look at the other people there as temporal manifestations of form in the Great Mysterious Process of Becoming. I waved to a young girl as I passed, and she waved back. I noticed a shot of exchanged energy between us.
I let my Self stretch out towards Antelope Island in the distance, then expand out into the infinite blue of the clear sky beyond. My inner sense of deep connection grew, like frost on a window pane.
I can taste it even now as I write these words.
That evening, my husband and I went to dinner at the house of a very old friend who we don't see that often, with two other couples we've known for a very long time and don't see all that often. The previous week I had been at a small gathering where I watched myself feel separate, strange, and a little uncomfortable.
But that evening I made an intention to hold the memory-feeling of my day and just be in the place of Being One with All Things, in process, in motion, in flux.
The evening was magical. I appreciated the soul of each being there. I was not worried about how I measured up, or what others might think of me. Because I was not 'me' . . . I was 'Us.' I listened to funny stories, learned interesting things, had thoughtful conversations.
In the week since, I lost that sense of connection as I dropped back into my daily habitual life. I still am stressing about this paper . . . but maybe not so much. The Great Salt Lake is there, out my window. I can stretch my awareness out and touch the lake. I can choose to take a break and recall Being One With All Things.