Over the last three days I have been gazing steadily. The clouds have prevented the gaze from my cactus covered morning temple so I have been continuing to consume my light at sunset. I made it to the beach on Day 46 and gazed as the sun set behind the hills of Malibu. On Day 47 I gazed from the edge of my bungalow in the heart of West Hollywood, drinking in the light as my neighbors and passersby drink in the sight of a grown man crying while staring at the bright ball of fire hanging in the sky just above the synthetic jungle of buildings and billboards. I have been dreaming of living on a lake in a giant house with a wrap around porch lately. So when my neighbors invited me to spend the afternoon at a waterfall out in Pasadena I gratefully went along. We drove out in Summer, top down, music loud, and spirits soaring.
The sky was a relentless thick grey, so thick you couldn’t even tell where the sun was located behind it. It was completely blocked out. It was only 4:20 at this point but in the back of my mind I wondered how I would do my 8 full minutes of gazing today. The morning had been cloudy like usual, and today it gave no sign of letting up. I dismissed my pending disappointment and decided I could feel that later if necessary. For now I was going to enjoy the hike through nature toward the waterfall that I had in front of me. One thing the sunlight has definitely illuminated for me: live in the present moment. So I knew I’d have time to fret over the clouds later and I put it out of my mind.
The hike consisted of a dirt path through a canyon of rock walls that went along next to a creak bed. At some parts the water was trickling by and we had to hop across rocks to get to the dry path. At other parts the creak bed was dusty and dry and you could walk along it, as if it were the path. As I walked along the middle of the creak bed toward the waterfall I felt like a rebellious drop of water, making my way back to my source, against the tide, against the flow, and against all odds. After a sweaty but sweet thirty minutes we were almost to the rushing falls.
Walking across the rocks with Nikki, Johanna and her sister Jessica, nature surrounded me today; she built a much needed sedimentary damn between me and the vibrations of the city in which I live. This external wall I put between the city and my body is but a misty reflection of the chaos of the inner city I’ve got pulsating non-stop in my mind, my veins, my soul. I’m hiking to this waterfall, to this wedge of nature in my outer world so I can build an internal damn and carve myself an inner wedge of green and sky and space. I needed to get away, both inside and out. So I retreated to a rock-encrusted waterfall to dampen the synthetic sounds of civilization and awaken the aroma and atmosphere of oasis inside me. I’m carving out of my rock-encrusted heart a place for the Spirit to flow, like the water flows in my tree-dappled afternoon hideaway. About fifty other people had this same idea, or perhaps they just wanted to get their feet wet. As I rounded the bend and descended on the mouth of the falls the sounds of merry shouting, laughing and playing filled the air, mingled with the constant sound of the gushing falls and created a cacophony that brought to mind a merry band of peasants blowing off steam in the forest after toiling all day for the king. This was break time; and time to break open, to breathe and to expand: past the city, past the cement cemetery in which I live, and past my own inner turmoil.
As the water flows without ceasing it smoothes the rocks, and the sharp edges become rounded spots on which to rest weary bones. And as I rest I am being smoothed. Nature is filing down my sharp edges and no longer filing away grudges, so my soul too can become rounded and ready to be a resting place for another’s weary bones. I want this all now, I want healing now, I want enlightenment now. But I remember it takes decades, even centuries for a sharp edge to become a smooth surface on one of these rocks. I must be like these rocks, steadfast, unmoving, and in no hurry at all. Just here, just being, just existing in whatever shape I’m in now. Like the rocks, I don’t wash myself in the water of the Spirit, I just put myself in its path and let the waters wash over me.
As we make our way back to the car at 6:40 the ominous and definitive grey hasn’t moved a muscle. And the sun is completely invisible. Disappointment flares up in me as I realize I may miss a day again. Even though it’s due to weather and not whether or not I get up, it’s still a bummer. After a small but tiring set of mental gymnastics on the ride home I finally decide not to resist the circumstance. I resign myself to extending my experiment by a day, doing my 8 minutes tomorrow and just being okay with that. Almost as if on cue, the clouds begin to thin out and I can see the bright disc of sunlight directly in front of me. After a few more minutes it sinks down below the helmet of clouds altogether but still hovers above the horizon, a prime gazing situation. With the blessing of my companions I pull the car over on the side of the road, kick off my shoes, stand in the tiniest dirty patch of earth and gaze, through a fence, past a wire, at the setting sun. As I’m gazing I realize I am standing on the side of the freeway with cars wizzing by, gazing at the sun through a barbed wire fence that is housing a power plant or a refinery or something that’s just crazy loud. Coming from the still of nature to the rush of the city is not lost on me. The sun seems to be saying to me, you may not be able to predict how it’s always going to go, but if you don’t resist what’s happening you’ll get what you want. I wanted to see the sunset. I didn’t necessarily want to stand next to broken glass on the side of the highway and gaze though a fence to the background music of engines and machinery, but really the moment couldn’t have been more perfect. Once I let go of my insistence that I had to gaze, and my expectations of how it should go, the sun came out for me. And I felt grateful.
SIDE EFFECTS: None.
BENEFITS: I am able to understand the mystical benefits of living in the present moment and the power in becoming neutral and non-resistant to the situations around me. The “here” and the “now” is the only place there is any real power.