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Deep Calls to Deep: Introduction

This is the introduction to a day-long workshop on whales and contemplation called "Deep Calls to Deep, The Soul of the Whale".

 

I began studying whales 25 years ago, which is also the amount of time I have been practicing and studying meditation. There is a connection to be made there, and we will be exploring that connection today.

I have a lot of information and stories to share, but this is not just a day for taking in information. Whales are magnificent creatures. I think just about everyone who has spent time with them would agree, at least in private, that their intelligence may equal or surpass ours, while being of a very different sort, and their capacity for compassion as well. And we, by living the way we do, and viewing ourselves and the world the way we do, are driving at least some of them to extinction.

Two decades ago we thought we had saved the whales. Now we and the whales are threatened by the same human attitudes and behaviors. Unlike the "save the whales" movement of the past, now it is we who need to be saved from our arrogance and our blindness. And whales may well be part of what saves us.

The day is therefore formed around what for me is a vitally important question:

What does it mean to live in devotion to the truth, to what is real, and let go of our exclusive devotion to what we think is true, what we think is real?

That question can be explored from many, many angles. And, it only makes sense as a question if we have come to the point where we realize that our thoughts about reality, about ourselves and the world, are not true. If we realize that what we think we know is a very small, limited, fragmentary thing next to the dynamic force of what actually is.

For many people that realization comes only after a great deal of suffering. Or after a traumatic loss. But, it can also come, not always but it can, on meeting a whale.

I have been with hundreds of people who were seeing a whale for the first time, and I think the most common utterance on that meeting must be "Oh my God."

Whales are so big, and so graceful, and so silent, and so mysterious, and so unprecedented on first meeting, that something happens on that meeting that changes lives. I think what happens is the mind comes to a full stop. It meets something it can not comprehend, for which it has no box into which it can fit the experience, so it just stops, and the whole person comes into direct encounter with the sheer fact of whale, without the intervening filtering and categorizing that is the normal activity of the mind. Without all the mental activity that takes the present and tries to relate it to the past, to what is already known and familiar.

And for many people this is a profound event, for their mind has never stopped for even a second, except in deep sleep when we tend not to notice it! It is a profound event, but they miss the true significance of it. They do not realize they have just come into a realization of the most profound truth possible about who and what we are.

This has become for me something of a model of the spiritual life. To realize how the mind functions through distinction and differentiation and fragmentation, and how therefore living a life that is exlusively mind-driven is to live in fragmentation. And how when devotion to the known stops, a vitality instantly appears, an awareness of a deep connection to all that is. And so it seems to me vitally important that we all find our way to let our devotion to the known slip away, and allow that which is unknowable, but absolutely real, to live and breathe within us and through us and around us.

Some people spend their lives pursuing new peak experiences that will bring their minds to a stop, because it feels so good. But peak experiences are not what this is about. For that vitality is as present right here, right now as it is on meeting a whale. But to realize that, we have to get down to the bedrock of what we are.

These will be our themes today, which we will play with as we get to know these awesome beings of the sea, the great whales.

Read the concluding remarks from Deep Calls to Deep...

How Can We Help the Whales?

Read the introduction to natural meditation...


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