The Redwood Forest, being the magical and majestic place that it is, attracts many souls seeking spiritual solace, inspiration and answers. It’s been said that, on certain rainy days, a black crow has often met these seekers at the forest entrance to give them a message. They say it lands upon a branch, arms length away, and gives them a message as they enter, and, if they’re lucky, another message as they exit.
One rainy day, a woman wearing her poncho and rain boots, set out to walk through the wet forest. She was a student of nature, the stars, and the many ancient and sacred texts. A pure soul. A caring and graceful woman many would already consider enlightened. Though she’d already gained much through arts and magic and the ways of the great spirit, she knew there was still much to learn, and she longed to hear a word, a phrase, a truth she had yet to discover – an idea or concept or mystical mantra that would take her to the next place, or, perhaps, another dimension. She’d heard stories of these trees, and the magical crow that certain fortunate souls had the rare chance to meet, and she thought it could possibly be the next important step on the journey of her becoming.
As she entered, she did indeed hear the squawk of a crow above the trees, and watched as it flew overhead through the soft rain mist and landed on a branch just a few feet ahead. Knowing the legend, she quickly approached it to see if it would indeed tell her something – if it was a normal crow, or a magic one. The crow sees her approach and takes a few steps on the branch toward her. It nods its head for her to come closer, and, once her head is close enough, leans its beak just inches away from her ear, and whispers…”You’re gonna get wet”, then flapped its wings and flew away.
The woman was not sure what to think of this encounter. What sort of magical crow would tell her something so simple? So obvious? Of course she would get wet. Perhaps she was imagining things. Perhaps she was crazy. Perhaps it was crazy. Either way, she shook off this odd encounter and entered the forest.
The mighty sequoias, some three thousand years old, towered over her like gods, or Father Time. She felt small, young, and full of wonder. What had these ancient beings experienced and seen? What did they know? She could only imagine. They just stood there, massive and silent, pooling up the mist into droplets, letting them run down and fall from their branches and leaves, covering everything three hundred feet and below in gentle cool water.
She walked in silence trying to best not disturb the forest with added noise. It was such a quiet place, it seemed even the animals followed this same rule. She walked on in silence and figured this time might best be served as a time of peace and meditation. A time to reflect on nature and the beauty of these trees mankind has somehow, for three thousand years, unanimously chosen to preserve and not chop down generation after generation.
As she saw the forest entrance coming into view, she realized her walk was coming to an end and began to reflect on her time. She didn’t meet an angel or a forest nymph or hear the voice of god, just a nice calm walk and the odd tiny voice of a bird that said “you’re gonna get wet”, and wet she certainly got.
As she approached the entrance, she heard a familiar squawk from up in the trees, and looked up to see a crow descend onto a branch just a few trees ahead. Maybe this was her moment. A real-true-mystical encounter. Maybe the first time was an illusion and this was the real thing. Maybe she would hear the wisdom of God and find what her soul was longing for. She approached the crow. It stepped toward her, and she leaned in once again. The forest reached its quietest moment of the day as the tiny voice said…”You got wet,” and flapped its wings and flew away.
“On the way to enlightenment, carry wood, fetch water. After enlightenment, carry wood, fetch water.” – Tao Quote
The woman represents us; you, me, and every human setting out on a spiritual journey—looking for the hidden meanings of life, trying to peer into the chalice of the divine to find, or experience, ultimate truth. All spiritual seekers, regardless of language or tradition, share one common element—the idea that there’s more. Some of them call it dimensions. Others call it realms. Scientist call it quantum physics, the New-Age calls it Universal Consciousness, the Indians called it The Great Spirit, the Christians call it the Holy Spirit, or, the Kingdom of God. The idea is; there’s a force, a mind, a heart, an energy, inside or outside of matter, causing it all to do and be what it is. The idea is, is that if we can tap into, be aware of—see, hear, taste, touch—this reality, we can find our true selves, become what we were meant to be, and transcend.
If we all do this, we have found heaven; where everyone is as they were meant to be—eternal, beautiful, powerful, love itself.
It’s a lovely idea but it comes with a seemingly small, but large, tangle.
See, as beautiful as the idea of ascension is, there’s no adopting this outlook without deciding there is another place and reality better than this one. Somewhere out there there’s better trees, streams, fish, hearts, minds, people, even God. Yes, in this perfect place, we see God face to face, in a way we don’t here and now. So in all aspects, there’s a place better than this place. And, if there’s a better place, I have no choice but to view this place with less value, energy, importance, and holiness. If one is better, and my sites are set on going there, then I have no logical or emotional reason to invest in this place. And even if I do, it’s temporary—a place holder where I’m waiting out my time until I get to get out of here.
So what can happen to spiritual seekers is, instead of being baptized in water, we only want to walk on it. Instead of breaking bread, we only want to multiply it. Instead of being swallowed by the dust of the earth, we want to fly away to the clouds. There can be a general rejection to the basic systems and roles of the elements of this world and life. Elements that God created, blessed, and said are good. Elements that God said He was in. The Hindus call this Brahma. Apostle Paul called it Christ, “that all things we’re made through him and for him, and he holds everything together.” This is the idea of sonship—the body of christ. The body of God, not just being something consisting of men and woman gathering behind a name, but the thing inside of every—thing.
The woman represents us. The crow represents God, Spirit, Supreme Consciousness.
“For the kingdom of God is at hand, on your lips, and truly I tell you, it is within.”
Because sometimes in our spiritual journey of ascension, we forget that the story is not about leaving, surpassing, and escaping this place to find God out there, but; sticking our hands in the dirt, planting seeds, diving in the ocean, falling in love, opening our eyes to the God inside of it all, already. Not peering out to the stars away from this place, but more deeply into the world around us.
Paul said the angels longed to look into this mystery, and I suggest we humans still are. Puzzled at this odd notion that perhaps, God—Heaven—Paradise—Supreme Consciousness—Dao—Christ, is not in the location we’ve been looking all along, but right here; blowing and shining and blooming and laughing and thinking right alongside of us all along, hidden in the most basic of everyday elements, ignorantly, and, so innocently overlooked.
Perhaps this is why Moses was commanded to take of his sandals. To reconnect him to Mother Earth, the Great Spirit, to Paradise, his true home, buzzing around him all along; dirty and gritty and real and….simple.
Or why Jesus spits in the dirt and wipes mud on the blind mans eyes.
Or tells Thomas to place his finger into the holes in his hands, feeling the scars, seeing the reality of the pain that occurred to his literal body.
Perhaps this is why the Jews were commanded to be water baptized by the disciples. A nation of people looking for a king to come down from the clouds and smite their enemies. A people with their heads in the clouds, needing to feel the water, to be reminded that the place is here. And what better way to sober up a drunk than to dunk their head again and again in water.
See, as cute of an idea it is that humans glorify and worship created things over the creator. It is far more seen that humans worship imaginations, fantasies, and ideologies over what is real. Calling it God or Spirituality or Faith. This is the true golden calf: our imaginations used against us.
There’s a difference between what is thought of as real, and what is.
Jesus said we could not go to the Father but by him. This could also be said like this, “You cannot find spiritual truths outside of what is real.” Or another way, “Peer deeply into this place, accept the son (the manifestation of God), and you will see God.” “For if we’ve seen the son, we’ve seen the father.” This goes for Jesus, and you and me and trees and mountains too; all elements of the created world make up the sonship—the face of God.
For you are part of the body, along with everything else. He was the archetype, the “first born of many brothers.” First born, not only born.
Everything makes up the body of God.
You make up the body of God.
This is why the importance was placed on the temple. God spent over a thousand years helping a people see the immense important of the stones in the temple that housed the holy of holies. To help them see that God could only reside inside of something perfect and spotless and holy. He made the temple so deathly important for a reason; so that when His spirit finally left it, they would hopefully realize how precious and beautiful and holy all the other buildings and people and atoms of the world were around them.
This is why Paul said, “he holds all things together.” To the Jews, God would never reside inside something unclean or imperfect. So if it’s true, that Jesus holds all things together, then every-thing is holy and perfect.
The Jesus story is the story of a nation of people figuring out, learning the hard way, that God is and was and will always be inside of it all. Not in a box, on a train, in the sky, or in the rain…everything. “For everything that is seen is made from that which is unseen…and he holds it all together.” For the unseen is God’s mind, and the seen is God’s son—the body—the dust you were breathed from, that formed you…and….you.
So we start with you, and me…and a mirror.
Perhaps this is why Jesus continues to point people back to basic things.
When a rich ruler asks about eternal life, Jesus talks about feeding the poor.
When a woman discusses worship, he talks about marriage and her number of husbands.
When his disciples talk about position and power, he talks about giving a prophet one glass of water.
Time after time, when engaging spiritual seekers, he, like the crow, splashed water on their faces and said, “you’re gonna get wet.”
He said, “When I was hungry, you fed me. Naked, you clothed me. When I was in prison, you visited me.”
And this is a passage many people mention when talking about where they spend eternity after they die. In this story what matters to Jesus is food, clothing, companionship. He doesn’t talk about beliefs, mystical powers, walking on water, healing the sick, preaching the gospel. Things most seekers think continually about.
Again, what we often think the goal is, isn’t.
Where we think God is, He isn’t.
What really matters, doesn’t.
All done with good intentions, trying to ascend, enlighten, become.
In our attempts to go to Heaven, we forget we were walking through it the whole time, unaware.
And that thing about transcendence…
Something we can see from the burning-mystical bush in the desert, asking Moses to take off his sandals is; I don’t want you to have a spiritual encounter without being rooted, standing upon reality. When the sky opens, touch the dirt. Spirit does this to keep us properly balanced in our mind, reminding us that reality is not spirit alone, but spirit taking form. We often tear the trinity apart and crucify the son of God (the manifested literal world), by believing the spirit realm is our true home. All the while the spirit shows up in our realm and declares, “No, this is my true home.”
Same thing with Moses and his staff, David and his stones; something very literal combined with something out of this world.
We see this again when Jesus was baptized. Immediately as he comes up out of the wet water, the dove of heaven descends.
These stories continue to show us that there’s something integral about the connection between spirit and matter. And when spirit shows up, it demands a baptism, to keep us sober, level headed, grounded, whole.
Perhaps this is what Paul was referring to when he said, “I could speak in the tongues of angels, know all the hidden mysteries, give up my body to be burned (do all these things for ascension), and without love, I profit nothing.”
So may that woman, that crow, and those mighty trees remind us, the kingdom is actually, literally, here.
Heaven is within, not without.
On our way to enlightenment, fetch wood, carry water. After enlightenment, fetch wood, carry water. For that’s where the kingdom was, is, and always shall be.
May we be baptized, fully submerged in a water that brings us back to our sense, to home.
May our journeys lead us astray, our idols let us down, and our crows remind us that, “We’re going to get wet.” Waking us up to the holy of holies within, the heaven that is here and now, pointing us back to the elements of the life we so often try to escape from. Let’s get our hands and minds dirty, looking for God in every flower, smile, and atom of this place, seeing the face of the son of God, and then, seeing the Father.