"Seeing” in the Four Directions
The author attempts to connect to his identity as an organism in the universe by viewing the world through the eyes of other creatures.
- Story by James Inabinet
I begin by sitting, facing east to do the east part of the “ritual.” Then I move around the cardinal points, sun-wise (clockwise), from east to south to west to north until I have visited them all.
The first thing I do in each direction is sit quietly for a minute, in silence, with my eyes closed so I can calm myself and thus open myself to whatever nature will gift me. I am amazed at how it changes me.
When I am facing east, I consider the spirit-keeper of this place: a mouse. I picture myself a mouse, my nose close to the ground. My whiskers inevitably touch what I see as I weave through grasses and leaves. This mouse way is a feeling way too; I feel as I go. Confined to a world underfoot, tiny paws touching the ground, I know very little about the world at large. Mouse-seeing requires what Zen practitioners call beginner’s mind. It’s an innocent view that assumes nothing, knows nothing. It sees everything fresh and new. I don’t stay on any one thing too long anyway, to know it well. Touching this... then on to that... then what is this? As an earth-centered creature, I strive to stay grounded, staying with what I see, avoiding flights of fancy and the errors of thinking, at least at first.
When I am facing south, I consider the spirit-keeper of this place: a hawk. I picture myself a hawk, whose nose is rarely close to the ground. Sitting up on a limb, far away from the details of what I see, I scan the whole field. In that way, I don’t lose the forest for the trees. By being removed from what I see, hawk-seeing is not warm like the mouse, but cold, clinical – objective. Thinking is a large part of what I see and perhaps I think I know more than what I actually know. As a fire creature, hawk-seeing is active, burning with a youthful, zestful energy. Hawk-seeing is intense, focused, aware; it misses nothing. Scanning the whole, often with “blurry eyes,” every moving blade of grass tells me something.
When I am facing west, I consider the spirit-keeper in this place: a bear. I picture myself a bear, inside my winter cave that I have scratched into the earth. In that place, there is nothing to see with eyes and no one to confront. As an aggressive creature, a confronting creature, I must confront someone and, with no “other” to confront, I confront myself. Looking within, I peel back the layers of myself to ascertain that which moves me, lures me, so that I may begin to feel a soul-to-soul connection with what I see. Bear-seeing is a way of seeing where place and I are not so different. Like water, I make myself malleable in the face of that which I confront, following my emotional energies that lay just below the threshold. This shapeshifting serves me to behold and then become those energies. How does what I see make me feel?
When I am facing north, I consider the spirit-keeper in this place: a horse. A particular horse gift is the way she carries burdens, often selflessly, even until she falters. This is more to me than just doing what she’s told. To me this makes the act at least partially one of love, a giving of oneself. Empathy, then, is the horse’s gift to seeing.
I picture myself a horse in this way, giving the horse look, which is a love look. The energy I project outward when seeing is love energy. This is horse-medicine-seeing, looking at what is there in the same way one would a loved one, a child, a good friend. Love energy washes over what I see, which changes it (and me) in profound ways! Horse-seeing feels deeply what it sees and knows, far and wide, high and low, in all ways, without discrimination. Not one way and then another, but all at once – a true overview. There is an airiness about horse medicine, too, so I watch as the wind, moving air, animates things. To animate means to make alive. I begin to feel a being-to-being connection to the place and the beings there even as I watch the spirits dance around me, carried by the wind, out and about, listening to me, watching me, carrying me, as I struggle to discern what they’re saying.
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