Mark Neenan
Originally posted 10 Dec 2013

Shire awoke with the rising sun. How natural, he thought. Camping deep in the woods for some time he had rediscovered himself within nature. Quiet. Alone. No longer an observer, he perceived himself with nature and sensed his oneness in it. Walking at times he lost all awareness and for moments simply was… the woods.

 Then with sadness, he realized he would need to leave the woods and return to town. Sadness because he thought he might lose this unified awareness in the manmade town. Here in the woods, Shire was at peace and in union with all around him. In town the natural would give way to the manmade. From every direction he would be told he was only a part, a very small part. He feared he might lose the continuity of his cosmic self-awareness and begin to listen to those who would tell him of separateness and non-belonging.

Walking towards town, Shire’s one awareness was first affronted by a fence. How typical of manmade objects, seeking to divide. Shire contemplated this fence, as it seemed to be at the heart of man’s thinking. What was to be kept out, or in, by this fence? It had been some time since Shire had seen a fence. Was this one to keep the wild out and the domestic in? More likely the land on either side of the fence was claimed by two men, who together built this fence to separate their lands, animals, and themselves.

 Shire gazed at the expanse of the fence. He noticed a section was down. As he stepped over it, he maintained a sense of oneness and could not discern a difference between the land, himself, and the men who had sought to be separate.

 Resolving to maintain this awareness, Shire came upon a knoll. Raising his head to the zenith, his eyes focused on a silver speck. It spewed a white exhaust trail that seemed to split the sky in two. How different from, he began to think— then stopped his mind. He was about to separate the manmade from nature. Without a thought, he simply observed the sky. Scanning the clear blue he saw other, older exhaust contrails that were not so distinct. Farther to the horizon he saw natural clouds and noticed how similar the older, manmade clouds were to the natural ones. It appeased his consciousness to see the natural reflected in the manmade, and yet, it was only an appeasement.

 Perhaps if he used this vantage point of seeing the resemblance of nature in man’s creation, he could better maintain the resolution of one consciousness, the union with all sensed so easily in the woods. Sure enough, from this very same vantage point, atop the knoll, he saw the first outcropping of the town’s buildings growing in a complex higher than the trees of the foreground. Angular bluffs, vertical shapes of earthen red bricks were casting shadows on one another. They gave the overall effect of craggy river bluffs, pushed up from the forest floor.

 Yet for all this natural beauty in the manmade, Shire thought he was leaving the oneness of the woods. Seeing nature reflected in man’s creation was still only an appeasement to the part of him that had no need for an observer or mirrored reflections, but simply was.

Coming down from the knoll, Shire followed a highway to town. The highway itself was no more than conglomerate rock, weathered smooth granite. Crossing a bridge, he thought that someday man will not need bridges; he will be on both sides at once.

Viewing a telephone pole and line he stopped and pondered, where in nature had he seen such objects reflected? The only time he could remember seeing something similar in nature was another telephone pole and line.

 Then all at once, a flood of awareness swept him into a sea of knowing. The telephone pole and line were not reflected in nature but were within nature. As man was within nature, his creations were nature’s creations. He was a moving force of nature, not a separate, or alien, opposing force. Exhaust clouds, brick buildings, rock roads, and telephone poles were as natural as any cloud, rock, or tree within the woods. All were within nature.

This thought blew his objective mind. As he drifted into town without discrimination of the natural and the manmade, the continuity of his one consciousness remained with him. Until at the center of town, completely surrounded by manmade structures, he felt he was in the woods.

And then he simply… was.


About the Author

Mark Neenan holds a Masters of Education in Counseling and Personnel Services from the University Missouri, Columbia. He is a longtime practitioner and trainer of mindfulness meditation, yoga, and Qigong.

A former World Health Organization Researcher and Program Coordinator for UCSC’s Disability Resource Center, he has served as a Stress and Pain Management Specialist for Stanford’s Department of Psychiatry, Kaiser’s Department of Psychiatry Redwood City, El Camino Hospital’s Stress Reduction Clinic Mountain View, and the Meridian Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine Monterey.

Mark is a certified instructor of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction having interned at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center where he completed professional training under MBSR founder Jon Kabat-Zinn.

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