I hold a memory of a time when I was three years old, sitting on the grass in our back yard, pondering the green blades jutting up from the soil. I always hoped to find a four leaf clover as this was considered a real ‘find’ by my parents. But what really attracted my attention was all the little crawling things I rarely saw when walking upright around the lawn. There was an entire civilization of insects scurrying about doing whatever insects do in an urban green space.

The bugs called me to look beyond the surface of things. This was an early introduction to the primary muses of my life, the natural forms and systems that became my primary inspiration—my ‘root’ teachers. Maybe this is why I tend to look at what my mind thinks I see–and then ponder what I don’t. Nature invites us to investigate beyond our limited perception. Only much later when I was introduced to the idea of dakinis did I fully comprehend the thread of awareness initiated by my back yard musings.

In the Vajrayana Buddhist tradition, dakinis are recognized as the feminine ground of our awareness. On an outer level we experience this energy as the dance of the five wisdom dakinis: earth, water, fire wind, and space. On an inner level, feminine energy is the ground of our spacious, unfiltered awareness—our wisdom mind. This is how we communicate with the ‘spirit’ of our natural surroundings; our wisdom mind merges with the energy of the elements. 

I have conversations with the elements on a regular basis. These dakinis teach me whatever I need to learn. When I first heard my teachers in the Vajrayana Buddhist tradition, they spoke in a spiritual language that mirrored what I was already experiencing. The practices of that tradition have helped me to make that language my own, giving me a vehicle to communicate the experience to others. On an absolute level, the language of the dakinis is free from the game of words. But language, if used skillfully, can point to something beyond itself—like poetry. 

In our Western (Greek) tradition, one of the nine muses is Erato, the goddess of poetry. The word Erato means ‘lovely’ or ‘beloved’. Similarly, the dakini evokes our love for the earth elements, coaxing poetry from our innate wisdom mind—words beyond words. It is like trying to tell someone about a ‘peak’ experience—the spacious view from a mountaintop, or the roaring silence inside the wind or a waterfall. Words fail us, but we still make an attempt through shared human energetic connection.

Even so, I find this discussion quite a-musing. Why bother? I suppose it is a writer’s curse. Better you should go outside and take a walk in nature. Immerse yourself in the beautiful dance of the five wisdom dakinis. Maybe sit by a river and listen…

You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.                 (From the William Stafford poem, Ask Me) 

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