The Fruitful Darkness, Reconnecting with the Body of the Earth, Joan Halifax


book quotes:

The World Wound is a collective wound that we suffer simply by being born… Recognizing the World Wound also turns us away from a sense of exclusiveness. If we work to heal the wound in ourselves and other beings…

Suffering can also bear the fruit of compassion, the fruit of joy… Our suffering is a sacrifice, but often what we suffer from can be a gift of strength.


It is in this place of no restraint where silence and loneliness craft the soul. And then we return, purified by tears and the silence of questions that can never be answered.


Threshold is where we encounter death and can be renewed and restored through the unleashed primordial powers stored in the structures of the mind… Return is to a place we never left, although we did not know that we were there all along.


Some of us in our attempts to rid ourselves of suffering will create more pain… we are encouraged to face fully whatever form our suffering takes to confirm it, and finally to let it ignite our compassion and wisdom.


When we sever ourselves from society in a rite of change, there is an invisible door that we pass through that has no words on the other side… When we pass through this door, we always lose something. Something must be sacrificed. If it is the door between life and death, we sacrifice our physical body, and if it is the door of initiation, we sacrifice our social body. This door also separates and joins the living and the dead. Creation requests that we open this door.


When we enter Paradise, yet another sacrifice is required. This time, what will be offered is Our Elder Brother Deer, he who has helped set the world in order. It is Grandfather Fire who sees and slays the Magical Deer. And in so doing, Deer is transformed into peyote. Equated with the feminine corn and the masculine deer, peyote is the principle of male and female combined that when eaten evokes the vision of unity that the Huichols say is “their life.” The journey to Wirikuta, the sacred land of peyote, is “to find their life.” To “Find our life,” according to one interpretation of the myth, we must stop sitting around and complaining. We are called to prepare ourselves through sacrifice to journey to the feminine at the gates of Paradise, be cleansed and strengthened in heart by the gifts from the maternal. In this way, we can be reborn into heaven on Earth. Here we learn that death is a transformation of matter into spirit when we sacrifice that which seems most precious to us, the masculine deer who helped put the world together. Through Our Elder Brother’s sacrifice and his subsequent transformation, we enter the vision of the sacred marriage of Heaven and Earth, a world of balance and harmony. We then don the skin of the deer-take on the identity of the one who has set the world in order, the one who is both trickster and reconciler-and return to our homes to enter the circle of life and creation.


For shamans, this gift develops through the initiation crisis, the crisis that takes them out of the social realm into chaotic, unstructured zones that are open-ended, often terrifying, yet rich with possibilities. In this liminal condition, the neophyte shaman becomes vulnerable and receptive to communication with spirits and animals… Shamans develop this ability for magical and healing speech by surrendering to that which attacks them. By being receptive to their enemy, they receive the medicine of their adversary… Threshold works to reverse the process of suffering and misfortune into its opposite, to transform an adversary into a Protector… yielded to the forces of destruction and death and in so doing has lost the ground of culture, history, and psyche… Poison is transformed into nectar. Obstacles become gateways… we cannot eliminate the so-called negative forces of afflictive emotions. The only way to work with them is to encounter them directly, enter their world, and transform them. They then become manifestations of wisdom. Our weaknesses become our strengths, the source of our compassion for others and the basis of our awakened nature…


…As it turned out, the song he was giving me was from this great bird. The power of language, the force of words shape the landscapes of our minds. The landscapes of our minds shape our environment. The world around us, culture and the wilderness, make indelible impressions on our minds. A timeless conversation is going on among all things, yet we seem to have selected out our next of kind as the only ones we actually listen to.


…It is quite a leap for some Westerners to listen beyond themselves to another species, but this is a good way to practice yielding… The true language of these worlds opens from the heart of a story that is being shared between species. For us to be restored to the fabric of this Earth, we are bidden to enter this tale once again through its many modes of telling, to listen through the ears of others to the mystery of creation, with its continually changing patterns, and to take part once again in the integral weave of the narrative. Might we not hear our true names if we learn to listen through the ears of Others? Through language, one can exchange one’s self with other beings and in this way esta blish an ever-widening circle of existence.


Looking through the eyes of others… we may hear and understand the voices of our relatives… In the future, according to some, it is not us who will save the creatures but the creatures who will save us:

The Crow

I saw him when he flew down

To the earth

He has renewed our life

He has taken pity on us.

Yes, creation is moving toward us; life is moving toward us all the time. We back away, but it keeps pushing toward us… This wound is a door, a gate through which our spirit-hand reaches out to what is moving toward us…


…The experience of interconnectedness, however one might come to discover it, changes how we perceive the world, and thereby all our relations with the phenomenal world become an expression of an extended self, a self with no boundaries.


“All my relations.” You pray that the experience of purification is not for the betterment of the individual but for the sake of all beings… The more beings that I affirm I am related to, the more extensive my being: I take shape in the bodies of all my relations, and the boundary of my soul increases infinitely when I see that I am related to all of creation.


One of the ways we can characterize what Black Elk called “a sacred relationship” is by the term nonduality. What I mean by nonduality is that we are intimately connected; in fact, we are intimate. We abide in each other. Nonduality may well be a perception and experience that is revealed only to the innocent. Many of us, no matter the skin color, no matter the culture or epoch, have found that we have to leave society to retrieve our innocence. Our minds and bodies need to be refreshed; they need to be restored to each moment.


Gurdjieff once said that the only way you can get out of jail is to know that you are in it. Jail here is not our daily lives but our alienated relationship to the world of the familiar. We must retrieve the magic of the ordinary and rediscover sacredness in each thing.


Our personal wounds and the World Wound are not separate.


When I feel within my bones the truth of the interconnected nature of all creation, I know that we have greatly underestimated our true identity. We feel that our self is confined to our ego, to the sense of “I-ness” that stops with our skin. Carlos Castaneda has called this self-centered, anthropocentric view “self-importance,” a kind of human chauvinism at the expense of everything else. Chakdud Tulku Rinpoche, a Nyingma teacher, calls this “self-cherishing.” This coercive and exclusive view is part of our cultural baggage.


This view that expresses itself in how we describe the world – of subject doing something to object – is a profound error of perception, a delusion of the self.


I do not want to hinder that which hears the subtler voices of Earth.


…I began to question our relationship to the dead. I wondered if we can see beyond personal histories of loss and grief to an autobiography that includes the loss of forests and rivers. I wondered if we can look at what has passed from life on this Earth and see how the absence of so many species touches us at this very moment. Have so many species of creature and plant passed into extinction that the sense of the particular is now lost?… I know that we cannot redeem that which is forever lost; this is sure. But it is not impossible to consider that the myriad ancestral forms of life are indeed worthy of veneration… By venerating the dead we can experience the fullness of our own souls. Losing touch with these ancestors, we lose touch with the soul, both theirs and ours… Earth can only be redeemed if we reach through the veil of this loss to touch what is now forever gone. The redemption of the dead, the veneration of the ancestors of all life forms, returns us to a river of life that flows from the past into the present moment to nourish Earth and the future.


In Carlos Castaneda’s Tales of Power, Don Juan says, “Only if one loves this earth with unending passion can one release one’s sadness. A warrior is always joyful because his love is unalterable and his beloved, the earth, bestows upon him inconceivable gifts… Only the love for this splendorous being can give freedom to a warrior’s spirit; and freedom is joy, efficiency, and abandon in the face of any odds.” I know that those eyes that gaze with abandon into the world – this capacity for “seeing,” for deeply understanding things as they are from within themselves – are the secret eyes of our true nature. They are the eyes that have looked into the fertile darkness. They are the eyes of compassion.” And this body, with its heart, hands, and feet is the greater vehicle for realizing loving kindness our feeling of oneness with oceans, forests, the great trees, and all creatures, this body bon from darkness into light, this body that has traveled through a vast history from emptiness to form, this body in which identity is everywhere and nowhere.

My whole body

Is covered with eyes:

Behold it!

Be without fear!

I see all around.

This is the gift of the fruitful darkness, that we can see into the depths of suffering, our own and that of others, and in seeing, in understanding, we harvest the fruits of compassion.


…we must turn away from the purely civilized in order to restore ourselves, to reawaken our intrinsic energy.


There is no strategy in the wilderness. It is a place where Truth is experienced and expressed directly.







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