Today during our meditation we went to Oak Grove Park to have a tree watching party. The class stood in a circle, closed their eyes, and counted their breath. Mr. Summers then walked around the circle of students, reading an passage about the “clearing” (as it relates to consciousness as described by philosopher Heidegger).
At first, I didn’t really understand how the whole tree ceremony was helping me to understand anything about consciousness. However, after discussing things with Mr. Summers after class, it became much clearer to me what the purpose of the exercise was. As we stood under the tree and looked up, we could see branches, and although we could sort of see the sky through the woody mess, it wasn’t a particularly clear view. When we ran out from under the tree and ran into the field beside it the sky was no longer being blocked by anything and became clear. We were standing in the metaphorical clearing as described by Heidegger.
As I ran into the open field, I could still feel the cold raindrops splattering onto my forehead and cheeks as they did under the tree, but the raindrops felt different in the clearing. When I was under the tree, the large drops were scattered because they fell from leaves and branches after the water had time to collect. The drops did not fall directly from the sky and onto my skin. When I was in the clearing, the drops fell directly onto me, sharply and distinctly.
This experience helped me to understand the metaphorical clearing. When we’re focusing on something, like a tree, for example, our thoughts stem from that tree (just like the drops that fell from the leaves and branches) and become ideas (like the drops on my face). When we’re completely in the clearing, it is up to us to use the variety of different stimuli and take those thoughts and make them into ideas. We are not being directly presented with the thought of the tree, therefore we can get our thoughts from elsewhere and form ideas based on the outer world.
Beyond the tree there is freedom.