Burning Alive or Creativity Revived
brief reflection on my experience of and following spontaneous spiritual healing at the close of 2012
"There are things that knowledge cannot eat."
- Sobonfu Somé, Dagara Elder, writer, spiritual teacher / Keynote 4.11.2014 Harvard University
The tree fell in 1853.
Sequoia’s very existence shook the minds of weary men who used long augers, drilling holes then sawing through the body until severance was complete.
A strong crew worked more than three weeks to make the full cut.
And a big wind laid the giant to the ground.
The bottom was used for a dance floor.
The trunk, which remained alive with plenty of water for several years, was used as a bowling lane and bar.
Pieces were shipped East to be offered at pennies per view.[i]
* * *
As a community advocate, my roots are in the forest protection movement, specifically the Zero Cut movement, which sought to protect remaining virgin forest and end commercial logging in U.S. public forests. Reading in bed and alone when I first learned the story of ‘Discovery Tree’, I was shocked, utterly heartbroken, and astonished that I wasn’t crying.
I’m great at crying, so I thought. And I could not cry. That felt wrong. I put the book down and tried to sleep. I could not sleep. That felt right.
I went to my body imagining off a first kiss, and, quick, in a moment of ecstasy, there it was. A release. A shocking scream. The scream and the orgasm, seemingly one, accompanied by light consuming my sight in a flood from root through to crown and on. With that, I was utterly changed. As soon would my whole world.
At the time, I did not know what had happened to me. This flow of energy was to be the beginning of the culmination of a spiritual healing that began during undergrad in 1996 with asana practice, massage, and community-facilitated breathwork. There I was sixteen years later quite suddenly my sacrum alive and steady access to a state of ecstasy.
This was a radically different, though fundamentally familiar, sense of the world that felt very much childlike - connected, fresh, innocent, alive without hesitation, and fascinated by every experience and experience itself.
My formative years included two moments that embedded primary imprints in my psyche, sexual molestation by my stepgrandfather at three years old and a brief experience of Samadhi - one-pointedness of mind - around six years old, definitely before eight years old. Since facilitated breathwork at age nineteen, I’d vaguely remembered the state of connected innocence and sensed that something of intact experience was missing. And, always recalled the moments of incest and Samadhi from early childhood. Thus, though not foundationally, I was psychospiritually prepared for the experience.
I did not call this Kundalini Awakening until an asana teacher heard the story and labeled the experience for me. Other than to my mothers, healers, and teachers, I did not speak of the experience or pick up my texts on transpersonal psychology and transformational crisis until I had sourced the energy outside myself to Earth and Sun through a roughly seven-month process that included two visits with ‘Discovery Tree’. This process was complicated by financial desperation and grasping at someone desired. Grasping ended with heart opening as I asked out loud, “I grieve the whole world. Why must this hurt so much?” and received the answer, So you will know my love. So you will know love. Followed by another glimpse of all-encompassing light to my crown.
That answer from the ether brought three days of heaving, breathless grief that cleared my solar plexus. During this time, I experienced tsunamis of genuine appreciation solely for my existence, as if experiencing my mother’s first gaze upon me. The experience was ultimately healing and humbling. In the process, this genuine appreciation for myself and all others was restored to my gaze.
Of my heart opening, we have first the poems LOVE BE MY DELUSION and WILDFIRE followed by others in this section written fall 2013 when writing poetry was most all I was capable of doing.
For me, WILDFIRE and WILDFIRE: A LOVE STORY, a short film featuring the poem and photos of me in wedding ceremony with ‘Discovery Tree’, represent the death of desire to possess and birth of longing to exist. The poem WILDFIRE broke through with the thought, “He is alive. I do not have to grieve his death yet. We are alive. I want to live.”
The cutting of ‘Discovery Tree’ and mutilation of others in the grove during the California Gold Rush spurred the American land conservation movement and designation of National Parks in interest of protecting the precious and vulnerable from senseless actions born of scarcity - scarcity that can inspire and certainly arises from negligence and brutal competition. The possession of gold or gold’s possession of humans is a critical and rather curious piece here, as during the seven-month process between spontaneous emergence and heart opening, I was, for the first time in my life, comfortable with the color of yellow or original gold and the prospect of wearing gold adornments.
After heart opening, I began selling valuables in order to maintain a home and continue voicing care and concern for all children of all walks. The true insignificance of material attainment and harm in emphasizing material possession may be realized when the house burns down. I realized this when love like wildfire burned through all of my delusion.
For some, regeneration requires love like wildfire [ii]. Just as Kundalini Shakti refreshes and prepares the soul, wildfire refreshes and prepares the ground. Wildfire’s destructive nature creates conditions conducive to life’s ongoing. The whole of spiritual emergence and integration revived creativity through me. The workings of creative process continue to fascinate me. This, so far as I know, is Life. To be alive is to be engaged in a creative - regenerative - process of which destruction and death are vital to the cycles.
The only thing that may be more painful than burning alive is denial or severing of the revival that naturally follows wildfire’s destruction. With forest, this denial or severing presents as ‘salvage’ logging. With humans, this denial or severing presents as social abandonment and medicating symptoms of psychospiritual distress.
The world I know and love is already gone but for remnants. I’ve longed for big trees like I’ve longed for myself. And everyone who lived in that time when there were rules that protected the old ones from cutting. Once upon a time, mothers of all walks were respected utmost. We simply did not cut mother trees. And like souls waking up in a soulless society, mothers of all walks now require support and protection in recognition of their role in service to collective vitality.
[i] The story of ‘Discovery Tree’ as I read it is shared by Paul Hawken in Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Social Movement in History is Restoring Grace, Justice, and Beauty to the World, 2007 Penguin Books paperback edition, pgs 37 – 41 ( Hard Cover edition: https://www.blessedunrest.com/ )
[ii] For information on wildfire’s role in sequoia and forest community regeneration, please see John Muir Project