Subtly Profound

The subtle wisdom of the desert speaks only to those who are willing to look beyond the obvious. Here at the Painted Hills, the obvious is the colorful multilayered hills. If one does not get more intimate, more closely engaged, the subtle wildflowers do not appear. Tarn and I make a pilgrimage to this place every spring to see what many do not see. Large swaths of fiddleneck, John Day chaenactis, and the oddly named, rough eyelash weed (blepharipappus), can only be seen by those who wish to see them. It takes some work to get out of the car, hike a short distance, and actually look beyond expectations.

The Dharma also requires us to look beyond our expectations. The true nature of mind compels us to see what our habits obscure, to let go of the obvious in favor of the subtle. Then the subtle becomes obvious. With practice, the elusive clarity of our original luminous mind is everywhere—including the wildflower we previously did not see. Every precious moment is an opportunity to look beyond what we expect.

I think this is what draws me to wilderness where artifices of ‘civilized’ life are stripped away. But I have to let this happen. Otherwise, I remain blind to the gift of surrendering my delusions. I can walk blindly into the wild and see nothing but a photo opportunity, the desire to capture a shadow of what I could otherwise experience directly. Although I do take many photos, it is the smell, texture, and energetic vibration of a wildflower that reflects the luminosity obscured by my assumptions. 

As I sit here upon sun-warmed shards of volcanic rock, witnessing deep blue larkspurs and listening to the wind wash over Carol Rim, the subtle becomes obvious. Something penetrates my senses and carries me into the great silence.

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