Tree Climbing; The Psychic Method

15 04 2012

I have about 5 unfinished drafts sitting in the drafts section, mostly relating to this one thing that seems worth sharing but that I can’t figure out how to talk about. I want to keep it short and simple but it keeps getting long and inscrutable. Trying again…

Something new and strange and pretty great has happened. I can’t tell if it’s a side effect of aikido, a by-product of drawing, or a sign of growing up. It’s probably all three. Here’s what it is: I find I can look at a high, far-off place, like a treetop, and have the experience of being there.

I relate this to aikido because part of our practice is extending energy, usually to make a non-physical connection to our training partner. The martial application is about taking initiative in the encounter, reading the attacker’s intent, responding with the appropriate timing, etc. I’ve gotten more interested in the energy aspect of aikido, for reasons I won’t go into right now (that’s another languishing unfinished draft). Suffice to say I’ve been practicing extending my awareness, trying to sense my surroundings on all sides, and trying to make a sensory connection across empty space. Much like what’s been happening with the treetops.

I keep referring to treetops because that’s where I can most readily do this,* for reasons which I believe have to do with drawing. Or rather, thinking about drawing, which really amounts to simple observation. I’ve been studying the trees and shrubs every time I walk the dog, in anticipation of scenes in my next webcomic on a crazy forest planet. I’ve arrived at this strange sense of a relativistic point of view. In my quasi-educated terms, nature is a series of fractals. The same shapes and patterns recur constantly at different scales. The five foot bush next to me is composed of the same materials and the same basic forms as the 70 foot tree across the creek. I’m not at the top of that tree, but the top of this bush is the same thing, in a different frame of reference.

I said at the beginning that I have the experience of being high in the tree I am looking at. To clarify, I don’t literally hallucinate the view from the treetop. What I do get is a sense of expansive connection to the landscape, the same sensation I get from actually being in a high place and taking in the view. For many years, as a kid and a young adult, every time I looked at a high place– tree, mountain, roof, even clouds– I wanted to be up there. I’ve climbed a lot of trees and mountains, and a handful of rooftops. I was even lucky enough to climb a 21,000 foot mountain in Nepal, which is as close to walking on clouds as one is likely to get in real life. Climbing and hiking, interacting with nature, always felt much more rewarding than just gazing at stuff. But it’s still not oneness with nature, which I think is what I’ve always really craved when looking at those high places. Now, when I look at the treetops, I don’t feel that longing. I feel deep satisfaction, as if the desire for oneness has been realized. It hasn’t– I’m no enlightened monk or anything. I think it’s just maturity. I think I’ve just had enough life experience to shift that romantic yearning into an appreciation of what is real and accessible.

So it turns out growing up is pretty cool.

*I’ve tried the same thing with distant hillsides, the ocean, and the moon. Results inconclusive.

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