The four yearly events
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By Michael Erlewine (Michael@Erlewine.net)

I find myself a bit in reverie on this solstice, so this is a bit of a ramble, a little midsummer-night daydreaming. You are warned. Perhaps this is somewhat due to the huge full-halo CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) from the sun directly aimed at Earth that will begin to engulf us today, June 22nd.

Midsummer traditionally has been centered around the Summer Solstice and here it is, the longest day (and shortest night) of the year. The Summer Solstice is my favorite holy day or holiday of the year, but it also always brings forth a sigh from me as it marks the beginning of the decline of the sun. From here on out we are heading toward winter.

For me, this particular solstice has been a time for reflection and what I find myself reflecting on a bit today is the course of my life, some comments before it runs out. I realize that what I am (and have always been) is a phenomenologist, someone who studies the nature of consciousness from the point of view of the first-person, being the only person I know. As they say, that would be me. I asked myself: where and how did that begin?

And the answer to that question took me all the way back to when I was about six-years old and living in a house my parents had built for themselves just outside of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the only house around. On either side of us were two large farms and virtually nothing else. This was before television, so aside from a few radio shows, plus the fact that I was the oldest child, I had to entertain myself. The only thing around me was nature, so I studied natural history, and did so until I was in my late teens.

It did not take me too long as a kid to realize that the laws of nature differed in many respects from the laws of society. Obviously you can break civil law (which is why we have prisons), but you can’t break natural laws. They break us. As the years passed, I found that I trusted natural law (like the law of gravity!) more than I did the rules and laws of humankind and society. I embraced them.

From an early age I did not like school and tuned out as much of it as I possibly could. Instead, I would spend my school-time planning just what I would do when school was out for the day, once the school bus deposited me at my home out on 101 West Roseville Road in Lancaster, PA. And, as mentioned, these plans mostly focused on my interest in and study of nature. Everything else was kind of a big blur. I guess the takeaway here is that from an early age I became used to having huge blocks of time for myself to just kind of spend as I wished. It was for me more valuable than money.

And, if I fast-forward to high-school (which I never finished) and the time after that when most folks go to college, that time in my late teens was the first completely free time

(free of school) that I ever had and I loved it. As it turns out, it seems that I need a vast amount of time to do nothing other than just follow my own consciousness through its changes. I find it fascinating. For me this was like a full-time occupation.

This habit I had acquired of reserving large amounts of my time for doing just whatever I wanted to do made it inconvenient for me to do what other folks in my generation were doing, like going to college, getting a degree, and starting a career. Somehow I didn’t have time for that, and I certainly wasn’t interested in more schooling of the traditional kind. I had done that, and didn’t like it at all. Like the old fable “The Ant and the Grasshopper,” I was like the grasshopper, and wiled away my time doing whatever I pleased, when I was supposed to be carving out a career. Nearly everyone pointed this out to me as often as they dared.

As mentioned, I had by that time an ingrained habit of following my heart, not necessarily my reason. I did what I felt like doing and avoided doing things just because somebody told me I had to or should. I was like “The Fool” card in the tarot deck (designed by Pamela Colman Smith), who blithely steps over the edge of a cliff into empty space or the void, and so on. This heartfelt approach was not without its pressures.

However, I felt I knew very well how to spend my time, and I arranged my life so that I could have as much time as humanly possible and still survive. For some years I worked a job that I could complete each day in one-half hour of intensive work, leaving 23-1/2 hours to do whatever I want, and I wanted. So, I certainly studied very intensely, but just not in any formal way. Mostly I taught myself, something I have done all my life and I was already good at it by that time. I became the archetype of what an amateur should be. I loved what I was doing and, as I mentioned, developed a habit of following my heart. That is a hard habit to break, not that I ever wanted to.

And this has never changed. My hobbies (what I naturally love) became my careers, although it took many years to bear any monetary fruit. My wife and I lived on next to nothing and were happy to do that. When kids came along, I had to find ways of directing my interests so that some societal need was filled, i.e. I was paid. This took some ingenuity and I consider myself lucky to have some of the breaks I have had.

As to what a lifetime of monitoring my own inner changes has done for me, it is hard to say. In a way, it is like peeling back the layers of an onion until there is nothing at all left. I haven’t reached the “nothing at all left” point, but what we might call “The Self” within me is more transparent than it once was. I can sort of see through it a bit and have even developed a sense of humor as to taking my “Self” so seriously.

What started as my own learning curve, known only to me, gradually has merged with the mind-training techniques of Tibetan Buddhism. I had managed to become fairly perceptive on my own, but my homemade “site map” of consciousness had huge gaps in it. I had some things right, but other obvious truths had never dawned on me. The Tibetan meditation and other mind-training techniques helped to fill in the missing

blanks in my mental education until I had what amounts to a road-map to a more aware consciousness. After all, the Buddhists have been at this for 2500 years.

And it was not like the Tibetan teachings overpowered my own homegrown insights. It was more like they confirmed what I already knew and went on to point out what I had been missing or had managed to ignore for various reasons. Anyway, what I have been realizing on this midsummer night’s musing is that part of me has been in a kind of isolation or solitude (on my own) almost my entire life. I invested my faith in nature’s laws at an early age, as to the way this world works, and that was a good bet.

This has led to keeping my own council as regards the veneer and conventions of society and, instead of minding the rules, I chose to follow my heart, as selfish as that may seem. And the result of all this time is what I bring to conversations like this, an edge or perspective just different enough to hopefully be useful. It is difficult to get outside convention and see ourselves.

That’s my midsummer night dreaming.
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