Machapuchare: Himalayan Sunrise in Nepal

Austin R. Pick
A Wider Rotation

Short essay first published as a guest blog on Ken Wilber's site, July 2007

Of all places, lying sprawled on the driveway and smoking a mint cigarette, the summer night air holding me to the earth, asphalt warm against my back, I suddenly became aware of the almost imperceptible rotation of the planet. As I drew my hand from my mouth, thin liquidy trail of smoke drifting along the arc of my vision, the stars ceased to move above me in the slow motion shuffle of a televised time-lapse, and I began to feel instead the reality of our measured, continuous roll thru the enveloping void of space. The stars were no longer "up," but merely out there, and I began to feel also the bulk of the earth beneath me, its mass and its inexorable turning stretching me along the curve of its surface, flush with life. Nakedly plastered there on the front edge of our forward motion, as all points can be felt to be, I sensed that the stars were neither satellite nor static, but suspended in the slow dance of a wider spiral, turning too. Everything revolving, not as an axle spinning in the mud, no, but as a wheel turning, a fetus stirring in the womb, stretching and slowly uncurling, awakening in its own starbelly of cosmos. Everything evolving, ever changing, the universe born in a great burst and expanding outward, cooling and coalescing, flowering in an increasingly subtle diversity of forms, a rush of life. And in the embrace of this vision all the horrors of civilization, the heaps of bodies like broken promises, the glut of consumption like adolescent infatuation, for a moment all suffering seemed to become almost comprehensible —trial and tribulation, growing pains— not beautiful, exactly, but equally impermanent. Scanning the stars and thus looking into the past, it occurred to me that when the stars gaze upon us they look into the future, and then all distance swallowed itself, all distinction slipped like a dropped veil and for a moment I became the uncurling body-mind of the cosmos, awakening to myself, to the universe awakening through me, becoming conscious through all of us in every wriggling, seemingly insignificant moment, through the imperceptible stirring of every heart, every cell, every winking neuron, unfurling and opening outward along all levels and all lines in the slow stutter of self-realization, leaving nothing unturned.

My cigarette's spire of ash collapses. The world returns, shiftless again beneath my feet in all its multifarious complexity, its bending shadows and quixotic beauty. That moment with the stars, despite its too easily simplified implications, seems not like a hallucination, but rather a direct experience of the obvious interconnectedness of all things, a tiny taste of Big Mind. And while I can never completely forget such a vision, even among the turbulent bumblings of the everyday, I do not believe that a new age is imminent, that history will end in a radiant cataclysm, or even that utopia is possible. But we are going somewhere, it seems, not simply around and around. And it does seem to me that more integrated, holistic and reasonably sane lifeways are not only necessary, but actually attainable. If an individual can realize liberation, as all wisdom traditions insist, can't human societies also be freed from the caustic abrasions of ignorance? Perhaps. The manifest world is a dualistic dance, and as our times incline toward the reduced view of scientific materialism, it seems to me that our role as beings interested in the quality of consciousness may be to restore the balance, and, with luck, to up the ante a little. We are wise to welcome any insights that expand our perception and challenge us to be more and more open. But although philosophies and theories can certainly help us to raise our expectations, when we become too preoccupied with puzzling over the big picture we can forget to turn inward, where our potentials are actualized and where, if the wisdom traditions have it right, our answers actually lie, curled in the beginnings of a bloom.

The planet hums in a mad profusion, rhythmed cycles of collapse and crystallization, death and birth, opposites ever articulating each other. Our minds hum too with the fluctuating constructs of tasks and trajectories, attachments and anxieties, a confusion of consciousness seeking sense. Amidst all this, sitting on the floor, I set aside some time to turn inward, not searching for salvation but stillness, a little space for starbelly. I turn inward, cultivating an openness of equanimity where I can observe these processes within me and gradually learn to accept them as they are, ever changing in flux and flow. My mind wanders again and again, of course, running in myriad rivulets through the canyons and tangled thickets of conditioned perception, the fortified habitations of fear and desire. In our world there are wildfires to be found everywhere, raging destructively, but meditation is a control burn, slowly scorching all untended lots and malignant plantation manors back down to basic being, burning off all brambles and clutching bracken. This process is sometimes painful, but in the glow of observation the dams and dwellings of habit begin to collapse, almost imperceptibly. And as the distinctions dissolve brick by brick, cell by cell, hidden well-springs emerge, creating new spaciousness for an inner ecology no longer so constricted by a narrow sense of self. Simply observing, allowing, this breath comes and goes, this heart beats in measured pulse, and I, while not exactly any of this, am all of this, somehow less and more. I am an aggregate, a rooted trunk overgrown with moss and lichen, ferns and fungus, my spine a column of ants, an attentive axis. My mind wanders still, mumbling a little through everyday turbulence, but I'm finding that I'm no longer so stuck in the same old spin. Meditation is the cultivated awareness of a wider rotation, and I return to this center again and again, turning with the wheel. Of all places, lying silently on the rooftop and smoking a mint cigarette, with the clouds above me a palimpsest of mottled gray, I can hear the almost inaudible sound of the rain just before it begins to fall, a whisper suggesting that the stars themselves are falling, closing all distance.

Kyoto, Japan
July 2007

First published in July 2007 as a guest blog on philosopher Ken Wilber's site,, as part of a series of essays related to understanding integral consciousness.