Thundering Impression

Ominous slate-gray clouds fill the sky to the south of Bend as we head to Newberry Volcanic National Monument. We plan to hike the short trail through the lava flow to discover resilient wildflowers that peek out of the cindery soil. When we arrive at the visitor center, thunder rattles overhead and moisture laden clouds simply let it all go. The torrential rain sends visitors scattering back to their cars, feet clad in flip flops, their clothes soaked through. Many folks are not dressed for the spontaneous change in weather.

We are almost always over-prepared (Is that possible?) and don our rain gear, hoping the storm will soon pass and we can get on the trail. But nature has other plans and the deluge continues unabated. So, we hang around the visitor’s center, refreshing our memories about local geology, botany, and volcanology. Tarn plays interpretive ranger for a few curious folks and I soak in the sights and sounds of weather and people speaking several different languages.

It really is raining proverbial cats and dogs. I stand outside in the protected corridor watching heavy drops create micro-craters as they strike developing puddles becoming small lakes. It feels like a bardo state, an in-between, bridging the warm dry interior of the interpretive center and the raging waves of thunder, wind, and rain. I feel disconnected from either, yet totally absorbed by sensory impressions. Something moves inside me—a barely discernible cadence, a pulsation of sounds blending together.

I recall reading a book by George Leonard many years ago entitled, The Silent Pulse. The title throws light on the experience of this moment. In Vajrayana Buddhism there is a word, rigpa, “spontaneous purity” or “pure and total presence”. The meaning is very esoteric but is sometimes translated as “naked awareness” or “bare attention”. This is the ungraspable pulsation or movement of awareness unaffected by any filter of past experience or future expectation. It is inseparable from quantum soup, a continuous primordial echo linking all matter and energy in the universe.

Lightning and thunder continue to flash and resound around me, ceaselessly echoing the ancient teachings. One meaning of Vajrayana is “Thunderbolt Vehicle”. I viscerally experience this in flash of light, a thunderclap, and silence. Everything in my field of perception arises, emanates, and dissolves. My teacher once told me if I have a momentary awareness of this quality, I should simply abide there. I have no idea if I have direct realization, but I am inspired to abide in the unfettered possibility.