via Incense Box.
Once the gods walked among us in the Golden Age of humanity. The divine spark in every being was burning brightly because we were pure and our karmic debts were as yet non-existent. We were awake, not slumbering and responding blindly to delusions. We had not yet retreated into the cavern of our ego-mind, and we did not block and interfere with natural processes.
We did not have or need to have opinions, and we had not yet become attached to gratification, so our intents were pure and rooted in the sacred. In this era, we humans had no need to practice to wake ourselves up and focus our spirits through mindfulness and meditation. We wore the weight of the human form with ease, not weighted down as we were in later eras.
In short, we did not need to rehearse or practice how to locate and connect with the divine, because we were divine performers, not practitioners as we are often referred to today. The notion of practice in modern English historically implies doing or acting, but post 15th century it often was connected to a profession, e.g. medicine or law, implying that a skill had to be performed repeatedly in order to perfect it.
Gradually, the practical or ordinary human attitude prevailed as we moved increasingly further and further away from the divine, from our higher minds. Finally, in our present degenerate times, we so-called developed peoples are so remote to the divine, wedged tightly into secular worlds, that we have to obsessively practiced to make contact with our higher selves, and so with the divine, if we are so disposed.
Most of us moderns place our own sensory needs, according to our own view of the world synthesized by our human minds, first. We eventually lose touch with our spiritual being, our divine nature, all together. In such a view, if we are not gratified, we indulge ourselves in delusional behavior and thought, such as fear, anger and all manner of machinations to get what we feel we are entitled to. But our True Nature is one with the universe, so it craves nothing for itself.
Once, we had no fears because we were totally in tune with the love of the great universe of which we are a vital component. Our divine nature is a special thread, its texture and colour vital to complete the tapestry of the Universe. At that time, we had not become arrogant and wilfully separated ourselves away to try to make our own tapestry.
The ‘spiritual practices’ or performances of indigenous people are akin to those of this Golden Age. I experienced them first-hand when I stayed with a tribe which was returning to traditional life deep in the interior Lands of Australia. Their desert lives are totally integrated with those of their creation heroes who manifest all around them in the natural environment, which is known as ‘The Dreaming.’
They consider themselves to be not separate from the universe, and view natural phenomena as they view themselves, part of the Great Mother Nature’s creation. They interact directly with the external world, never needing to put themselves apart from it by constructing their own concepts of it or filtering their perceptions.
The climax of their lives is The Djang, the glorious death ceremony. Each of them is in love with death, longing for the moment when their spirit is freed from its physical vessel, the body. Preparations for Death ceremonies last usually for 12 days, and they are filled with ritual dances and observances. Then, as the moment of the Djang approaches, they sit and wait for creator spirits to visit the sanctified Burial Ground, and for that moment when the deceased is released, having learned all the lessons of being human. Their spirit rises up into the sky against the backcloth of a full moon, and travels on into other dimensions. Life conducted in full knowledge that death may come at any moment is perhaps the greatest spiritual practice of all.
In the western world, meditation is one of the prominent and fashionable forms of spiritual practice, in modern times. However, there is great danger that it becomes the be-all and end-all of spiritual pursuits, representing an end in itself. Many of us desire transformation; we are convinced that we are imperfect, that our minds need wiping clean because they are fundamentally flawed. This is an impossible feat, indicative of the tendency towards dependence: we ask someone or something else to give us a fresh start.
We must learn to accept all our thoughts, good or bad, sincere or insincere; simply stand back and witness them as if we are staring up to the surface of the iceberg from its massive body (the tip is the conscious mind, and the body of the iceberg is the unconscious mind).
It is inspirational to consider what ordinary people were like going about their daily lives in the early periods of so-called ‘civilisation.’ In this Golden Era of ancient India, several thousand years before the Buddha’s appearance, the gods, the Holy Beings, lived among the members of communities, making the divine easily accessible and full enlightenment possible by simply being in their presence.
This notion is based on the premise that all humans born into the physical dimension are endowed with a divine flame, an indestructible link with the sacred; that, unlike today, in the Latter Era of the Dharma or Law, when our societies are in serious decline and our karmic debts on a colossal scale, we were originally sacred beings, with natural faith born of our closeness to the divine.
The situation in ancient India was similar in Ancient Greece where the gods were constantly present, tangible, as they were in many other European civilisations. In other areas of the world, we can see today that surviving indigenous peoples, e.g. native Americans and Australians, unexploited African and South American tribes, et al, also live in the constant presence of their divine beings, their Creation Heroes as they are often known.
If we fully and equally respect each entity that we encounter during all the moments of our life, we will be able to live in complete harmony and with joy and wisdom once again.
spiritual and physical integration in standing
Reality is the result of various invisible energies coming together in time and space, in the physical dimension. We inhabit the physical dimension in human form, and unfortunately the overdeveloped intellect becomes rigidly attached to it, and insistent that it is the only dimension that truly exists. The visible has become the be-all-and-end-all of modern life for a large majority of us, and that majority has the loudest voice steeped in reason and logic, and often heavily laced with fear and guilt.
Permanence has become mandatory in human life: we crave it desperately and fear its disintegration. This craving and fear often deprives us of the unadulterated pleasure of vibration and resonance and pitch, and the divine way they are combined to create unforgettable music.
It is this realization that sound, like food, is concrete, which can liberate us. We cannot truly interpret it in our physical form even though the tendencies of the intellect are to assume we can. Neither can hold on to it, pin it down, possess it. But on the other hand, it may pin us down and posses us, because the combination of resonance and pitch and rhythm match our own physiology and energy constellation. The energy expressed by a sound or pattern of sounds is simply a mirror reflection of us, because we are energy in the same way. When this moment occurs, tears stream or pulse rates increase because we recognize ourselves, our energy body, in the sounds.
When we perform musical pieces, or when we utter any intentional sounds from the body, it is important to remain aware that we are contributing to the vast bank of the sounds of the universe, which are eternal and utterly indestructible. This has been referred to as the ‘Music of the Spheres’ by various civilisations in different eras.
Sound is infinite and indestructible, so we have a responsibility to make beautiful positive sounds, which will help to balance our troubled planet. As a crude example, if we complain endlessly with a discontented even bitter intonation, then that negative energy will remain somewhere in the universe. But often the mind elbows past this truth and instead distracts us with egocentric thoughts, with concerns about either how others will critisize or envy us, how we will be classified, or at the other extreme, leads us to be ignorant of the importance of what we are doing. In each case, these distracting ‘thoughts’ are blocking the open channel which connects us with our divine or spiritual origins, with the invisible world.
Redirecting the use of one’s mind away from these distractions is so important to open up the channel again, and keep it open. It is our true nature at the centre of the onion, which we need to connect with – peeling back the layers of tough tasteless conditioning and expectations until we find our real centre. So, first, accept that your true nature needs locating and tuning up, polishing until it sparkles, and then that you possess all you need in your physiology and anatomy, and the unique arrangement of your energies, to be the perfect conduit for sound.
Redirect your attention in readiness to perform in the following way:
While standing, visualize your spine as the central core of your physical being. It is your axis to keep you upright and grounded in the gravitational field. You/you and your instrument must negotiate this field efficiently in order to have optimal dexterity and resonance.
first, as a masterpiece of physiology and anatomy – muscles, bones, joints, ligaments and tendons, operated by fluids and pumps;
and secondly, as a constellation of different kinds of energies and DNA, a spiritual being, a concrete gathering of energies. These concentrations of energy are well illustrated by the ancient Indian system of chakra, or 6 wheels of energy situated along the axis of the body. They are at the base of the spine, slightly above and behind the navel, at the heart, the throat, between the eyes, and at the very top of the head or crown.
The spinal bones, arranged one on top of the other, form a protective covering for the precious spinal chord which is the centre of the nervous system; the energy wheels correspond to intense foci of energy at the 6 chakra points connected to the spine. As you stand visualizing, affirm strongly that you are a being in two different ways: first, physically and second, energically. Now you need to integrate these two models in your mind so that both systems are enhanced by the attention of your mind.
Ask your body and mind politely to comply with your directions, as follows. You can either close your eyes lightly or keep them open, whichever is most comfortable.
- “Mind, please shift up to the top joint of my spine at a point just above the ears, and then proceed in a straight line vertically from that place to the crown of my head, which is a site of intense and special energy. In my mind, send this energy up into the blue sky, beyond any clouds that are passing by, up towards the sun. Remember that humans get energy in the form of light and heat from the sun and moon just like plants and animals do. So, without doing anything, without consciously stretching or moving in any way, I can visualise or see with my inner eyes. The crown of my head is attracted irresistibly towards the sun or moon.’
Pause to truly experience this positive feeling and to say thank you. Take as long as you need.
- ‘Mind, please shift down the length of the tower of my spine, passing all the chakras or energy pools, to the bottom of the spine. Its smallest bones are located here; they are the only remains of our tails in the evolutionary stage when we were animals, but they are mostly redundant now. However, they are a good focal point to give my directions to. So, I must encourage my tail bones to point downwards towards the earth. The base chakra is located in this area, so I connect this energy into the earth. It is like plugging myself into the earth’s current, and appreciating that I am part of the earth, without which I could not exist. also. Plants put down their tap roots deep into the earth, and I can do the same. I can see my tap root as the continuation of my spine, down into the earth where my being is nurtured by soil and moisture. As I give and follow these instructions, I feel my feet making closer and wider contact with the earth or floor I am standing on. To avoid locking my knees when I stand, I must bounce slightly and feel a softness behind my knees. This will help my feet to increase their contact surface area with the earth.’
And breathe a little more deeply than usual, enjoying this sensation and being grateful for the life-giving energy of the earth. We sentient beings could not survive without it.
Pause to truly experience this positive feeling and to say thank you. Take as long as you need.
- ‘Mind, please now travel up and down the length of my spinal column: up to the crown and the warmth and light provided by the sun, and down to the tail bones, and the nutrients and moisture provided by the earth. As I move, I notice the chakras at the crown, between the eyes, at the throat, the heart, the navel and the tail bones. Notice that with this kind of inner attention, the awareness of my spine, its location, small changes that are occurring, increases, and I feel more grounded, stable, and at the same time taller, lengthened. If my eyes have been closed, now I will gently open them, and if not, I will close my inner eyes and open my physical eyes now. I look around, freely moving my neck, and I notice that my visual sense is keener and my view clearer.’
And breathe a little more deeply than usual, enjoying this sensation and being grateful for the life-giving energy of the sun, the earth, and your mind and spirit, which allow you to experience these pleasant and illuminating sensations.
Something to ponder on as you go back into your daily life:
All that composes this beautiful unique universe we inhabit, exists only because we can perceive it with the laser of our mind. It has no independent existence. It is our unique view which no-one else can access, so we can use it as the source of our being.
Please practise these 3 steps as often as you can until they become second nature to you.
Part 2: spiritual and physical integration in sitting
When I was a youngster in northern Britain, my father was a very strong calm influence in my life. One day, we were playing cricket during the leisurely lunchtime as we often did during school days, and listening to the radio at the same time. I can still remember those dark brown voices the BBC prided itself on, floating out into the perpetual sunshine of my child’s life. The smoothness of the cricket bat handle wound immaculately with cotton, the ‘chonk’ of the hard ball as it struck, the moving forward of my body to strike in a straight line as I had been taught, and the indestructible sound of words which totally changed the direction of my life.
‘It is hard to be born a human being, and harder still to encounter a Buddha. It would be like a blind sea turtle encountering a floating log with a hole in it and poking its head through.’
At the time, I had no idea what a ‘Buddha’ was, as I was born an Anglican Christian from strong Catholic heritage on both my maternal and paternal side. But I could deduce that this encounter was extremely rare, and I could imagine the sea turtle in a vast salty ocean, suddenly spotting the hole in the log on the surface, and then swimming furiously upwards towards it to pop its green neck through and view the sky first-hand.
My parents kept their religious views quiet, but my younger brother and I were very religious, always inspired and fascinated by my devout grandmother’s faith. He served as acolyte, assistant to the parish priest, and later became head choirboy of a famous boys church choir. Meanwhile I, slightly resentful that the role of women was to step back and support the holy men, stayed quietly kneeling in the pews, watching his progress. But I remember feeling so comfortable in the darkness of our local stone church, content to listen to Latin reverberating around the white marble altar and the swish of robes, and entranced by the candlelight and fragrant incense.
For several years after hearing about the zealous turtle, I remember waiting for a ‘Buddha’ to appear, though I still had no idea what it was, and I desperately wanted to be a holy figure wearing robes in order to serve this ‘Buddha.’
I will never forget the experiences of deep Christianity I had with my grandmother. We offered candles together to various saints, spent a great deal of time bowing, genuflecting and making the sign of the cross. She almost always had tears in her eyes once we set foot inside a church. As a young child, I found this quite worrying because she was always so jolly in everyday life. So, I remember asking her once why she was crying, and if she was sad. She looked down at me from her constant gaze at the crucifix and statue of Mother Mary and said, ‘These are tears of deep joy that God loves me and protects me, and that I am special to him. One day you will feel this deep joy if you show your gratitude and respect every moment of your life.’ I was very moved by this, crying myself, at which she swept me up into her arms with absolute delight and passion.
Then in my early teens, my inspirational grandmother with such pure faith died, and I knew she had chosen me to carry on her legacy of strong Christianity. However, when I came to practise on my own, Christian practices, especially of prayer and confession, felt wrong, seemed dark and rather negative to me. It was at this point that I realised that out of adoration and awe of my grandmother, I had wanted her approval and so practised willingly with her, but that I could not be sincere without her by my side. So, I made a conscious decision not to practise Christianity, and instead to explore other pathways and take my grandmother’s spirit along with me. I was sure she would approve.
As my faith exploration became more determined, and my intellectual wings became strong, I was so shocked to find out just how lacking in peace most Judeo-Christian sects were. They seemed consumed with rage and revenge, and were power-seeking above all, having been at war for hundreds of years since the Crusades in Europe, and still continuing to fight. For a long time I couldn’t understand why my grandmother seemed not be aware of this aspect of her deep faith, but later I did come to understand, as I also did her tearful joy.
Soon I entered the turbulent waters of relationships, and found that I easily became involved with angry and disturbed people, even though I felt little of those negative emotions myself. My transient partners like the crusaders were also lacking in what I considered pure faith and instead invested themselves in intellectual analysis and wholesale rejection of the invisible world. I was saddened by this incompatibility and longed to find my life partner and settle down to sharing the magic and joy of existence that my grandmother had lived out. Usually and as a result of these strong pre-requisites, my relationships were short-lived and filled with numbing drama.
It was during this time, while studying as a performing pianist and cellist at a national conservatoire in northern England, and very much influenced by the great Russian Romantic composers like Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsy and Skriabin, that I finally found the Buddha of turtle fame!
One day, as a respite from my hard physical practice schedule, which often ran to 10 hours a day as I was ambitious, I attended a lecture simply called ‘The Buddha Shyakamuni,’ which recounted his life and outlined the basic Mahayana systems of karma (cause and effect), Bodhichitta (focus on enlightenment) and Sunyatta (emptiness). I turned these exotic Sanskrit phrases round and round in my mouth with the sudden realisation that the Latin of my churchgoing childhood had been a mistake.
I was so impressed to at last actually encounter the Buddha and his breath-taking methods of becoming permanent, for the first time, and to have some basic understanding of what he stood for. In fact, I felt like the sea turtle itself, so thrilled to find the hole in the driftwood, and to take in the whole of the heavens in one dazzling vista. Coming down to earth a little, I also noted that I should start to prepare my robes of servitude.
After this, I instantly recognised that this was my pathway, so I took my beautiful grandmother’s spirit with me and started out on the way. Of course, the Buddhist path was somewhat at odds with my immersion in Russian Romanticism, but I believe it brought about some realisations I would not have otherwise had. One such realisation was that I temporarily lost my mind while working to learn the whole of the famous Rachmaninov piano concerto 2, as he himself had done while writing this magnificent tour de force.
The well-known musical themes permeating this work are sublime; I think they are filled with the joy, renunciation and devotional gratitude, of a hugely religious nature. But creating these themes took its toll on him and he became exhausted and seriously depressed for many years as a result. The physical and emotional demands of this work left their mark on my spirit too, which led me to eventually renounce Romantic music altogether and turn to early vocal music of the troubadours of Europe. Its simplicity centred me, allowing my Buddha nature to shine brightly once again. My new musical obsession also had its roots hidden in my ancestry, connected with my grandmother and the mystical Cathars. But that’s another tale for another occasion.
It was while I was recovering from this period of musical breakdown that I discovered the power of meditation as opposed to prayer. I spent increasingly longer periods of time meditating with various masters. This part of my pathway healed me and moved me on, and soon I became a meditation teacher myself and would work with others to help heal them.
I later discovered through the Nirvana teachings, the final teachings of the Buddha at the end of his long life, and towards the end of mine, that my distant ancestors were healers. So, I have carried that legacy forward by using healing hands and working with energy fields in my life here in Japan.
In the evening of my life, padding between the pagodas and sleek temple roofs, a million miles away from cricket bats and the BBC, I became a Buddhist priest serving the Buddha in my robes. There was incense and chanting, and my grandmother was clearly ecstatic. She did indeed detest the revenge and warring of her devoted Christian faith, but now in the Buddha’s spiritual world, she is in a land of complete peace and bright joy.
Then, one day, the turtle led me beyond all this. Having found Nirvana, by progressing through all these necessary elements in the pattern of my long life, I realised they were a means to an end. I kicked away these supports and found myself in complete oneness with all. Concepts are no longer needed, and I fully understand the enigmatic instruction, ‘if you see a Buddha on the road, kill him.’ Formlessness, the vague flux and flow of constantly changing sensory phenomena and energies, are the great blue ocean, and I am the turtle.
If we stop in a moment and step outside the moments of our daily lives to look objectively at what we spend our time doing and saying, then what do we see? Mostly tedious and futile acts arising from ingrained conditions and expectations, which we cram into our waking time, and then struggle hard to get credit for.
Is this why we experienced the agony of human birth and development? Is this our special mission in the greater picture, in the vastness of the invisible world, in the universe?
Especially in so-called ordinary human life, we must avoid being drawn to the detail of the mundane, always keeping our awareness of the bigger picture. This indissoluble link with the divine will bring the greatest of all joy and meaning.
So, right now as you read, take a moment to breathe with all of your attention. Feel the great stillness and silence inside your heart as you do so.
Breathe in taking in the futility and tedium which fills the world, and at the natural pivot between in breath and out breath, breathe out the bliss and divinity of our origin back into the universe. Feel the connection with your true roots there and then smile with relief that this mundane life is not your true life.
Father Earth instructed Kunapipi, the Great Mother, to make everything needed to live on his skin. She used her huge store of sacred words to do this, making selections very carefully for each item. First she created Day and Night, and then the seasons so that all the plants and creatures she made next would have a rhythm to their lives. A good rhythm meant a time to rest and a time to work. Father Earth always said that the Great Mother’s middle name was ‘Balance,’ as she was so determined to keep everything equal and working together as a beneficial whole.
As she created each animal and tree, each bird and rock, each wind and river, she pronounced their names loudly with her contralto voice into the universe. Next, she enlisted the help of a huge snake called Rainbow Serpent, the best of her creations, to shape the land into mountains and valleys. He made high places and low places, so that water could flow, cool places and hot places so everything could have the best conditions for thriving. She watched with delight as he slithered his huge colourful body rapidly around, creating bright sparks like fireworks! High mountains appeared in a trice for frothy streams to cascade down, and lush valleys opened up to allow the wide rivers to flow.
The invisible power of the sacred sounds the Great Mother selected turned the words into form. As she stared with huge yellow eyes like suns, each item she needed appeared in its place.
When everything was ready, she went about her final task which was to create special human beings. She used her most precious words to create them, and she made two types: dark humans like Night, and white humans like Day.
She also gave her people special words for rituals and ceremonies, for speak-stories and sing-stories, and for the Balance Laws. She didn’t think that they would need more words than that for they could see and hear and smell and taste and feel things in their bodies. But more importantly, they could just-know things, and they could make things from everything she provided. This just-knowing and making skill was something that all the plants and mountains and oceans and creatures could not do so well.
When each human appeared she presented them with a sparkling package to welcome them. Each package contained a supply of simple gratitude for everything which made their lives possible. All she asked was that they sprinkled it around liberally during their human visit on Father Earth’s skin. Mother Nature decided that instead of bird-song for birds, and snake-hiss for snakes, and tail-wag for dingo, and croak for toad, she would give people singing with words so that they could communicate with each other. This was because people were not exactly like bird, or mountain, or dingo or toad.
She knew that they could live happily on her skin where she would provide everything they needed, and that they could sing and speak, and paint and carve and sculpt and dance, to entertain each other. But the most important thing about human people was their huge, generous hearts which were filled with a very special substance Mother Earth dreamed up and named ‘Love.’ Then, all their pure hearts joined together in harmony to make the Great Heart of the Universe.
So her people lived happily on her skin. They loved the words of their rituals and stories and songs. Lastly she created wise Laws which ensured that everything the Great Mother had created would please Father Earth, and would thrive and multiply. The people didn’t need to use words for their everyday lives because they just-knew everything, and they were so full of Love that they didn’t need to express anything else. Her people had everything they needed because she had thought of everything, so they trusted the Lands and they trusted their lives.
Often life was hard for people without fur or feathers or scales. So, when rain came and nights froze, and sun was at its hottest, she provided caves and waterholes and fire to keep their smooth skin warm and dry.
But in time, and only sometimes, to her puzzlement, evil spirits crept into some of her human’s large hearts causing them to break the Balance Laws. They became frightened of the fierce anger of Mother Earth and Rainbow Serpent, her assistant. Of course, they were anxious about the punishment for their crimes.
Then some of her people broke the Law more and more often. They were impatient to have the things which Mother Earth provided at the wrong time. They wanted to eat all the huge green speckled eggs of Jabaru when there weren’t enough young. They wanted to eat emu when there was no celebration. They wanted to drink sacred water in times of drought. They wanted to cut wood when moon was old instead of new. They picked all bluebells to make medicine leaving nothing for other people. They became impatient, dissatisfied, thinking that they knew best.
Then one day these few ungrateful people invented money so they could buy things from other tribes exactly when they wanted them. Great Mother asked them where the gifts of supplies of gratitude were. But they told her they were lost and that they had grown tired of searching for them. When they got money they immediately stopped wanting to share with others as they had done before. Instead, they greedily made stores for themselves. Thinking only of themselves in this way made their eyes grow and grow and grow. And as their eyes grew their ears got smaller and smaller.
They did not listen to Kunapipi’s kind wise voice any longer, and turned their backs when she held out her hand to them to give them little surprises to encourage them back.
They no longer noticed her smiles and her signals because they weren’t listening or sniffing or feeling, but only stuffing their greedy eyes until they were satisfied.
Life on Father Earth’s skin became harder and harder for them, so now they needed money to buy food and shelter in order to survive.
Eventually, feeling pale and thin, one day out of desperation, they illegally plundered Kunapipi’s precious store of sacred words, and used them illegally to talk-talk-talk. In time, they learned how to make pictures from the stolen words since they were blessed with the gift of making things. But the more pictures they had, the weaker their just-knowing and intuitions became.
Eventually they needed the pictures and words merely to remember everything. They were addicted to them, unable to stop producing them, and then going on to make thoughts to fit with them.
They were no longer like plants and mountains and oceans and creatures. They were no longer ‘Here’ and ‘Now’ with Mother Earth. They called themselves ‘Word Fellas’ and made themselves separate and different from all her other creations.
Gradually the Word Fellas just-knew less and less and hid themselves away from the Great Heart of the Universe. They almost entirely stopped expressing their heart Love through painting and carving and sculpting and singing and dancing, and became envious of those who had not lost their abilities.
They forgot all that the Great Mother had to offer. They even turned their backs on the big red heart of Earth below his skin.
They forgot all about the tasting of stars, sniffing at moons, the looking at the endless song of all the other planets, and her big desert and vast ocean. So instead of just-knowing and being ‘Here’ and ‘Now’ with the Lands, the rituals and the Laws, they had to see things to be sure they existed, and talk-talk-talk about them endlessly.
They spent most of their time checking and double-checking, looking and looking, and looking again with their big sad eyes. In truth, they were lonely without the Great Mother and all her creatures and plants, without that warm deep-down knowing feeling and calm way of listening.
But they never talk-talk-talked about their loneliness because they had acquired the poison of pride in pull-string purses. They kept them hidden behind their huge eyes. They used all their money and even traded sacred words in order to buy pride secretly from evil and negative spirits.
Then the word fellas decided that they had hoarded enough words to make new skins out of. Their new skins were white and smooth and soft, and made them even more separate from the Great Mother and Father Earth, and all her sharing creatures. This made them want even more words and pictures, and smells and feelings stuffed inside their minds, which became inflated like balloons, while their pink hearts shrank.
They stockpiled more and more of Kunapipi’s supplies, so that they could be bigger and better than some people, and not so big or better than others. This meant that they had power over some, and wanted the power that others had over them.
So they were always measuring and striving, and doing and getting, and watching and thinking; all the things which Mother Earth’s sharing people of the Great Heart never needed to do.
One day it was decided by the elders that they would have two types of words: inside words and outside words. The outside words were to share with other people, and the inside words were stored up behind their eyes and kept secret from everyone else.
At night when they closed their eyes to sleep they would bring out all the inside words they had collected during Day and look carefully at them. Soon Kunapipi’s other creatures did not want to know all their extra words. They didn’t see the need for them. And so they ignored the Word Fellas, passing them by. It was as if they could no longer see them. They had become invisible pale ghosts living outside the Great Mother’s warm embrace.
The Word Fellas were surrounded by endless stores of everything they needed which they could access whenever they needed them. They spent all their time and energy seeking out new pleasures because they were bored and at a loss out on their own. Their appetites for exotic foods and endless alcohol, for pleasures of the flesh and feeding their lust, in time replaced the Great Mother and their place in her kingdom of Balance. Or so they thought.
But because their hearts had shrunk away from the Great Heart, and they made their own worlds inside their huge minds fitted out with everything they needed, they could no longer hear the calling of Kunapipi. She was the Great Mother of all, so she protected them when Father Earth asked for an explanation about the strange Word Fella tribe she had made. He was shocked by their lack of contribution to the Great Heart.
Secretly she continued calling out to them, longing for them to come back to join all her other creations.
Eventually they realized that they needed a place where they could be on their own. Their huge eyes had made them very good at counting and measuring, so they all moved to new Lands of Measuring and Counting, of ‘Then’ and ‘There’, of ‘Easy-Happy-Sexy.’ Because there were so many new kinds of words which they had grown from the original words they stole, they divided up this new Land into lots of different places, each with a new name.
But once they had made the long journey there and were installed in their new Lands, they discovered that if they stopped talk-talk-talking their bodies gradually fell apart because their skins were made of words.
Then because their hearts had become so tiny and they hardly breathed in any of Father Earth’s rich air, without their word-skins, they simply did not exist. They became white ghosts. So, they were constantly searching for secret recipes and commodities to stop their bodies from disintegrating. Now they became known as white fella ghosts.
In White fella Lands they no longer sheltered in caves or made fire, but instead made pointed roofs to put over their heads. They made windows and doors with seeing-stone glass in them which they could always look through. They could close and lock their doors with keys whenever they wanted to keep all their words safe. And this is how they lived.
But even though they had left the warm wise ways of Mother Nature, she, because of her mother’s love, allowed them to take and take from all her supplies. They were, after all, still her creatures, and she couldn’t bear to see them hungry, cold and pale.
Soon Father Earth began to notice he was in great pain in certain places on his skin. He called Kunapipi to him and asked her the reason for this. She confessed that some of the people she had created had stolen sacred words and created a separate life for themselves from them. That they had broken the Earth Laws and their living places were very much out of balance.
He scolded her for being too kind, but inside he was crying for their suffering. He asked if she had reasoned with them, and she told them that they were no longer able to hear her voice, and their eyes, although so huge, were unable to see the Earth Lands. She lowered her head when she told him that they had ceased just-knowing, using their balloon minds instead, and that their supplies of gratitude had been totally lost.
Father Earth’s skin began to crack badly as a result of their abuse. The Earth Lands were changing rapidly, the cold places getting colder and the hot places getting hotter. The rivers were no longer in tune with the oceans, and all the creatures which had so harmoniously fitted in with their environments at the start of their creation, were confused. They easily became angry and eventually they too became sick,and some died.
Despite many attempts to reach the Word Fellas, Kunapipi could not make them hear. She tried making the winds blow harder and harder, making the rains pour endlessly to flood them out. She instructed Crocodile man to make big fire outside their cities and the Storm Heroes to create terrifying storms to shock them into realising.
But nothing worked. They were deaf and blind, obsessed only with their own pleasure and gain. She wondered how the Great Heart of the Universe could have let this happen.
Things had become so bad that Father Earth decided he must take the last resort. So, he allowed his painful skin to erupt instead of tolerating the pressure inside. This release caused mountains to explode spewing out the poison which had built up. He could no longer hold back the melting of the great snows because his agonising body was over-heated due to the white fella’s poison and pollution. This caused violent flooding.
Regretfully, he gave into the huge cracks which had developed at the bottom of the great oceans. This caused earthquakes and the massive shaking of the Earth. His greatest hope was that this shaking would wake the Word Fellas up. Soon, massive waves gathered momentum and size in the oceans and rushed towards White Fella Lands, eventually bombarding their roofs and uprooting their metal and see-through stone homes, and destroying all their hiding places.
Father Earth and Kunapipi watched on with pain in their eyes. They regretted that many Word Fellas lost their lives and became marooned in the World of the Dead. It would be difficult now to rescue their souls so that they could travel on into the sky and learn the next lessons after being humans.
They still had hope that the White Fellas would wake up and hear their cries, but they had become so terrified of severe punishment by the hand that fed them and the pain it might entail, that they ignored the cries if they did hear them. In truth, they knew they had gone too far, but their purses of pride were even larger now. Indeed, they were bursting at the seams.
Then to try to help, Kunapipi decided to send one of her strongest women leaders into white fella Lands. They called her Black Mama because she had the biggest heart of all. She went to console the suffering white fellas and to learn about their purses stuffed with pride and their empty shrivelled hearts. She went with grass baskets filled with Love to hand out to them, and although they abused her too at first, her heart was big enough to tolerate their evil ways.
Eventually as they walked aimlessly about their polluted cities piled high with debris and ravaged by disease, desperate for their alcohol and pain killers, lashing out at others who they blamed for their misfortune, they suddenly saw the bright light of her genuine happiness and grace. It was as if they had to go to the very limits of their endurance so that they could realise the truth of the Universe once more.
Black Mama’s fragrant irises of sincerity and caring woke their original senses up, and they longed to feel the warmth of her embrace. She did not attempt to punish them, saying that they had suffered enough, but she told them that she could show them the way to recover all their damage and pain.
So, reveling in her delicious fragrances and kindness, and embraced hard by her huge heart, they agreed to follow her back to Kunapipi’s Lands to start all over again with her help. They cried and told her that some evil spirit had leaked into them and had convinced them that they could live in a different way, and that they had truly believed that they could surpass the Great Mother’s wisdom.
In time, balance on the Earth’s skin was regained, and people lived in original harmony with everything they could ever need. There was no punishment for the white ghosts, only a strong shaking to wake them up from their ignorance. Soon they found their bright packets of gratitude again, and their fragile skin began to thicken up in Father Earth’s honey air.
They solemnly gave back all the sacred words they had stolen, and destroyed the extra ones they had created from them. They realised that they could never hide away from the Earth’s firm surface under their feet and his pure pockets of air to fill their lungs with again. They could never hide away from the Great Mother’s creatures and plants always reaching up to the heavens and sun to be fed and delighted.
They were so happy to be back in the Lands, and to go on making their contribution to the Great Shared Heart.
Looking around inside this dark clammy dog-box, I remember so clearly when I first arrived at the settlement some years ‘back then.’ I would religiously sit down to write painstaking observations of ninija and her People.
Once tightly shut inside, I would light various deterrents warding off the swarming Flies, and then nervously remove my net from my face and sweat-sodden bush hat. But soon I began to run out of deterrents, and in desperation I called for extra supplies on my transmitter. Then the Wet season came and flooded out my dog-box, ruining my transmitter. No supplies were delivered. I was suddenly on my own, news-less, unsupported by my culture, stricken by a deep-seated panic that what had been my world was land-sliding away and leaving me behind.
I became fearful of dying a Desert death. But most of all, I was absolutely petrified of intolerable pain. It was when I was utterly consumed with my mortality, not any longer daring to step outside, that I began to speak in my dreams.
At first my scurvied lips seemed to be talking to myself using strange unconnected strands of language. I became quickly persuaded that I was in the early stages of malarial madness. But then I realised that there was someone else involved. I searched wildly in my four clammy corners for my interlocutor. To my amazement, ninija was giving me words like supplies of glucose to sustain my frail life, but she was nowhere to be found.
After that scary time when I feared for my mental health, and as I gradually accepted her as an invisible guide, ninija was with me most of the time. My Sleep-dreams and Day-dreams were woven into a gigantic carpet. She invited me continually to believe in ‘abundance,’ a word I had little recollection of ever using before. This word broke my conditioned addiction to the idea of ‘scarcity,’ to fending off hardship, to over-protecting myself until I became a dried Twig. Instead, this new notion of ‘abundance’ gave me a bright outlook of plenty.
Soon, after this mystical dialogue with her had begun, my aids to protection from Desert assaults did indeed run out entirely. Then one strange night, besieged as usual by armies of Flies in here, I inexplicably removed all my clothes, opened this Fly screen door, and walked outside. To my amazement, I no longer compulsively swatted or cursed the winged squadrons. I was no longer repelled by their persistent tickling and foraging for moisture.
Outside, Moon welcomed me and banished all fears of poisonous Snakes and pernicious Spiders. I was given permission by the Great Mother to be a naked and innocent creature, without collections of possessions or status. I no longer had any use for sensual cravings, and suddenly my heart and mind were empty of their stuffing of pictures and words.
I stood there with my bare feet dredged in Desert dust turned blue by Moonlight, shrouded by insects for which bared white flesh was a new sensation. I was empty and yet full. Instead of images, many of which had been planted there by the media and education throughout my life, the battery of my being was charged with Desert, Earth, Air, Sky, and Moon. My head was unusually clear and quiet.
It was simple. I had taken up my place which the Great Mother had been saving for me. I no longer cowered before the terrifying giants of Desert death and intolerable pain. I had selfishly coveted the secrets of primitive or indigenous Peoples once I was certain that western science had no sure solutions to death or disease. My original motives may seem entirely selfish, but perhaps there was some unconscious wisdom involved.
That Night, quite soon after I stepped naked outside, ninija arrived and led me, without any verbal instructions, away from the settlement. She turned left and right ahead of me among interminable thickets and Mulga scrub, the thorny bushes which cover the Desert. It was as if she was obeying invisible signposts. Her broad back was dark blue in colour as we walked quickly. Then, beyond the hillocks of Spinifex Grass, which she and her People called ‘Yellow Hill,’ we went on to a collection of large clay holes which had been dug into the ground. They were deep and smooth-sided.
Ninija turned and pointed at one, and I knew to climb down into it. She slowly lowered her strong body into the hole to straddle me, her cheeks swelling and emptying rhythmically, her eyes closed. Then she began to produce long rivulets of saliva which silvered down the narrow cleft between our bodies into the bottom of the hole.
She reached blind arms below us, kneading her mouth fluids with the skin of the Earth to make paint. I must have smiled in a bewildered way, for I had no idea what she was doing, or what it would lead to.
Then her black eyes opened and penetrated my blue eyes as she brought her fingers close to me and began to paint the traditional patterns known as ‘clan lines’ on my naked body. She made what looked like Fish or reptile scale shapes which ranged down my chest and thighs, and a huge tooth-filled jaw line across the width of my collar-bone.
As she painted she unexpectedly pronounced the words ‘Baru, Crocodile!’ Finally, moving to my head, on my cheeks she painted Baru’s tiny hooded eyes, and on my chin his ovoid nostrils. I shuddered.
She directed me to lie face-down in the clay grave. Then I felt her strong fingers marking bigger scale shapes across my back, and Crocodile’s thick spine in line with my own. I struggled to resist blathering while she worked, but failed, blurting out impassioned questions. I demanded to know why she likened me to a reptile, exactly what type of Crocodile I was, and so on. But she remained immune to my talk. After a time, the realisation of how inappropriate words and thoughts were on this occasion slammed into my mind, and I was silenced.
When she had completed painting me she told me in broken English that the Great Mother had shared my soul with Baru, Crocodile. That I must go and watch and care for my scaly brother and sister ‘totems’ down by Green River. Baru, Crocodile Man, according to the Dreaming myths, created Fire with the friction of his tail by accident one day during a ritual. He later learned how to burn the Lands with Fire to make them more fertile. But then he couldn’t stop making it. So, the Vast Hot Desert came into being.
Soon, all the species the Great Mother had created started to disappear in the ensuing drought, so she and her helpers created the Wet season exclusively to put Baru’s Fires out.
My clan lines painted, ninija left me in the strange blue light of the Desert clay hole. I had only ever seen pictures of Crocodiles, and most of them were in zoos! Now suddenly, this animal was my spiritual sibling. Everything was to be transformed after this Night. During the following days I did not set foot inside the biscuit tin of my dog-box. Instead I found myself walking, still naked and painted, away from the settlement and its giant Casuarina Tree towards the Buga Hills. I was no longer afraid of getting lost.
There I became magnetized to a group of pink Rocks, staring at their smooth surface. Then, I searched among piles of Stones nearby, in crevices, at the mouth of Caves, the faint traces of questions still between my lips. What was I looking for? Why? But their answers took the form of a sharp Stone axe between my fingers.
After that, I forged the form and the spirit of my new soul mate ‘Crocodile’ into the deep channels I had carved in the Rock. Crocodile. Baru. Me. I have been down to Green River day after day, often sleeping there, always within watchful distance of Crocodiles. They are pleased to see me, their tails expressively welcoming me to their homes of Mud and Water.