Rainforest Mind: Searching for God, or something like it

Rainforest Mind: Searching for God, or something like it

 
 
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Harlech Beach, by Ed Webster

In this episode I recount three experiences of being in sacred space, one on a rooftop in Delhi, one on a campsite in Harlech, and one during a five day chanting retreat.

What was I encountering in those moments, and does it matter what it was?

How do we interpret spiritual experience? Did I find God, the Buddha, or just the world?

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  1. When I was 20, I found myself in the military, stationed at the Presidio of Monterey, California. At the time, I was investigating religions and philosophies, reading extensively and doing the mental exercises typical of trying to figure out What It’s All About. (When I later returned to college, I was spared the usual sophomoric discussions because I’d already had them arguing with myself). One of my nightly walks took me from the Presidio to a Navy installation several miles away. As I strolled along, my mind was simultaneously holding two incompatible ‘truths’. “X is true” and “Y is true” and “X and Y are mutually contradictory”. In the event, the truth or falsity of the ideas really didn’t matter. What mattered was that my mental gears moved faster and more frantically to resolve the paradox until they eventually ‘jammed’ and thinking came to an abrupt halt. I cannot say that perception stopped, but the filtering of it, the categorizing, rationalizing, cataloguing and examination of it ceased. Contemplating a paradox is one of the practices of Zen Buddhism and I can tell you it can produce a mental state outside our cultural envelope. In this completely foreign state of mind, I walked back to the Presidio. It wasn’t until I reached my barracks that the overwhelming familiarity of having arrived at a destination ‘brought me to my senses’. (And there’s a term ripe for redefinition). I did not remember a single thing about the walk back or the world outside my mind during the hour or so it took me to get back to the Presidio, yet I had crossed many busy, noisy, well-lit, high-traffic streets. The experience taught me two things: I only need a minuscule part of my mind/awareness to navigate the physical world around me; and I really can “hold Infinity in an Hour”.

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