We were talking, in sangha, about the things that surface unbidden during meditation. We explored whether the (hopefully) increasing ability to settle the mud of the mind was giving us glimpses of what lay just below awareness. Or perhaps, I suggested, the mud simply settled in new configurations, forming a different topography. That, of course, implies that the pesky self is nothing more than mud – stirring up, obscuring our clarity, and generally making a mess of things.
The picture to the left is from Bandeliers National Monument in New Mexico. It, along with a photo shoot of the church at Black Mesa, has become one of my favourite places to be. We discovered the Bandeliers in August 2010 when I had some unexpected free time to wander while my chaplaincy colleagues were frantically learning how to sew their rakusu. Last summer, the area was ravaged by fire and floods leaving almost 50% of the park closed to the public.
This is a region composed of volcanic tuff – the mud-like material left from a volcanic eruption. I visited an exhibition about the way gas pockets formed leaving underground caves that became shelters for pre-historic dwellers. Mud settles and refuge emerges.
In the Bandeliers, the dwellings were carved out of the volcanic tuff or built using bricks made of the mud and mortared together with a mud mixture. (The tuff stuff’s tough; it was embedded in the tracks of my hiking boots and didn’t look like it would budge without some serious sandblasting!) Natural openings dotted the canyon walls too and the texture and formations along the cliffs seemed to transform into familiar figures which leaped out at me.
It’s an interesting process of seeing and creating. The mud settles differently every time. And a new awareness emerges.