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
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
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
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
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...