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Mind: "And the Mountain"

Today I am sharing with you a selected essay from a novelette called "Cloud-Hidden Whereabouts Unkown". This book by Alan Watts has been hugely influential in my adult life and as a result, has catapulted my Self into more wellness paths than I can even begin to explain in this short space. During my mother's battle with cancer last year I read it aloud to her each day that she was in the hospital. Those moments reminded me how perfect a catalyst Watt's writing could be for delving into mindfulness, meditation, personal transformation, and the East.

You may find the words inspiring, or you may not, but all I can do is provide a catalyst for your mind because none of us knows what ideas will stick, and what impacts will be made by chance encounters.

What will be the tipping point to realizing your best self? As we saw in the Integral Approach, progression starts with the mind, and so that's where we will begin. So, without further ado; I leave this for you and your contemplations. Italics have been added for emphasis.

"And the Mountain", words by Alan Watt's

"There is the water, and there is also the mountain. (In Chinese the two characters for "mountain" and "water" mean "landscape.") I have the use of a small one-room cottage on the slopes of the mountain-Tamalpais which I can see from the ferryboat. It is hidden in a grove of high eucalyptus trees and overlooks a long valley whose far side is covered with a dense forest of bay, oak, and madrone so even in height that from a distance it looks like brush. No human dwelling is in view, and the principal inhabitant of the forest is a wild she-goat who has been there for at least nine years. Every now and then she comes out and dances upon the crown of an immense rock which rises far out of the forest. No one goes to this forest. I have been down to its edge, where there is a meadow, good for practicing archery, and I think that one of these days I will explore the forest. But then again I may not, for there are places which people should leave alone.

In these days of overpopulation and social evils crying for concern it may seem wicked to withdraw from the crowd even from the bohemian and hippie crowd of the Sausalito waterfront. But, to tell the truth, I have some but little-faith in the historical idealism of "human progress." Like the planet itself, human history goes round. There are dawns of hope and sunsets of sorrow, springs of aspiration and autumns of despair, even though one's attitude can so be changed that one sees in autumn the beginning of a cycle whose end is spring. This is not saying, "To hell with people!"-as if I were somehow superior to the common man, a term which actually means the Man common to us all and thus (if I may be forgiven a pun in Sanskrit) the atman, our supra-individual Self.

There are situations when one owes solitude to other people, if only not to bother them. But, more than this, the multitude needs solitaries as it needs postmen, doctors, and fishermen. They go out and they send, or bring, something back-even if they send no word and vanish finally from sight. The solitary is as necessary to our common sanity as wilderness, as the forest where no one goes, as the waterfall in a canyon which no one has ever seen or heard. We do not see our hearts. I do not expect to be all that solitary for, as a paradoxical person, I am also gregarious and favor the rhythm of withdrawal and return. But in the mountain I watch the Tao, the way of nonhuman nature (if there is really any such thing) and feel myself into it to discover that I was never outside, because nature "peoples" just as much as it "forests."

To realize this one must go beyond what both distinguishes and segregates us as human beings our thoughts and ideas. To put it in a rather extreme way: We are misled when we believe that our ideas represent or mirror nature, because that sets us outside nature as mere observers. The tree does not represent the fish, though both use light and water. The point is rather that our thoughts and ideas are nature, just as much as waves on the ocean and clouds in the sky. The mind grows thoughts as the field grows grass. If I think about thoughts, as if there were some “I," some thinker watching them from outside, there arises the infinite regression of thinking about thinking, etc., because this "I" is itself a thought, and thoughts, like trees, grow of themselves. In solitude it is easier for thoughts to leave themselves alone. It is, thus, a mistake to try to get rid of thoughts, for who will push them out? But when thoughts leave themselves alone the mind clears up."

Credit: "And the Mountain" by Alan Watts, August 1970. Selected essay from the book, "Cloud-Hidden Whereabouts Unknown" Leave your thoughts on the piece, my thoughts, or your mind in the comments section below.

"Chasing Presence", shot on film, Ocean Beach, California 2020.

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