Its been hard to sit down to tell the next part of this saga … As a writer, storyteller and spiritual seeker, I’m continuing to mine for meaning in my foray into solitude on my first camping trip, documented in the previous post. It turned out to be a true pilgrimage – but that concept / revelation / realization came to me slowly, as I started to wake up to a new deeper older ancient rhythm… What came to mind was Philip Shepherd’s “brain in the belly” concept written about so aptly in The Sun Magazine April 2013 issue interview “Out of Our Heads.”
In Shepherd’s New Self, New World he explores the implications of the little-known fact that we have two brains: in addition to the familiar cranial brain in the head, there is a “second brain” in the gut. This is not a metaphor. Scientists recognize the web of neurons lining the gastrointestinal tract as an independent brain, and a new field of medicine — neurogastroenterology — has been created to study it.
According to Shepherd, there is a good reason that we talk about “gut instinct.” If cranial thinking sets us apart from the world, the thinking in the belly joins us to it. If the cranial brain believes itself surrounded by a knowable world that can be controlled, the brain in our belly is in touch with the world’s mystery.
A whale of a tale
I almost don’t want to jinx it trying to articulate what I discovered in my solitude. It was so visceral. Unexpectedly so, though I did ask for a clear sign that there is a Guiding Spirit. This was way more than a momentary clear sign – this was the mother whale sliding along side and taking a chunk out of my consciousness with her unfathomably large mouth – a cavern in its own right…. Her baleen jaws came down along my right side from the crown of my head to below my right scapula. A fissure opened up like a spring in the rocks of the caves I crawled into at Pinnacles National Park. In an earlier post, The Only Way Out is Through, I tell the harrowing tale of getting lost in another set of caves at this remote Condor refuge.
Like a cartoon drawing I “saw felt” my body tear open and peel away a layer exposing this crevice that was an EAR of its own – letting in this stream of sound – thick viscous earthly fecund force of nature whale song – mixed with owl hoots ringed by wolves baying – wings flapping, red crested woodpeckers swarming, feathers opening in a flutter of excitement, gurgling springs, my breathing, the throbbing of my heart, feeling/hearing my blood steam jungle through my pulses …
Does that give some idea how momentous this is? I was laying on the ground, having succeeded in isolating myself from humanity for long enough to actually tune into this realm of what … natural phenomenon? Sound scape of spires and swooooopppps rik-o-shaying off the inside of my own crystalline walls?
Of caverns and anchors
I rooted myself into this gulping yaw, fastening molecular structures hard and fast onto every facet I could. I knew this was a turning point, the pivot of passage into cavernous new territory. That voice sound ambient ancient rumble I heard is now mine, to guide me along the animal instinct ley lines of the topography of the unknown I have fallen into.
It was this sensual viseral space I needed to anchor myself. When I find myself gripped by this sickening anxiety in my gut, I slip under my mind’s radar and into my body awareness muscle memory of this anchor. Remind myself I have nothing to fear. Reality will continue to present itself in its many and varied phantoms and phenoms. No doubt. No matter what I do, it will unfold. Stressed or blessed I will be HERE in the NOW stepping onto the high wire one step at a time. Don’t look down, don’t look back – breathe, stay present, trust, keep moving.
So I come to this juncture. I’m in the woods, at the seashores, in California’s largest reservoir, learning my way through building fires, erecting a tent, facing the darkness of the night in the campgrounds and finding my resilience in solitude and simplicity. I can do this. I can find myself in this quiet, spacious earth. I can steer into the perfect job, the perfect companion, the perfect abode – and leave the ‘perfection’ to be defined by Spirit.
And here I am. Listening. With my little ear, and my BIG SHAGGY RAGGED EAR. Dancing into the lightness of moment-by-moment awareness, in the midst of strangling dark caverns of fear. Every day I turn down the covers, place my feet squarely on the red oak floor, breathe in and lift myself up into the morning.