Flow: Upright in the Vessel

There is a phase of consciousness that is called Flow and every real mystic probably knows it well. It is the basis for my own idiosyncratic sense of mysticism, the sense of wholeness, integrity and integration and a corresponding sense of liberty. The last two paragraphs of the previous post are significant in the matter. Circumstances today reminded me of a short essay I wrote for a forum four years ago that needed a little update and a slightly different application. So I am posting it to Integral Liberties sort of as a node of awareness from which I can circle around. The following is the essentials of that essay.

I first encountered the Flow when I was 15 or 16 in a non-sexual spontaneous coming of age situation. I believe it was Loren Eiseley who once wrote that in a rite of passage, whether ritualized or not, “the boy becomes a man and the man sees god,” which would have been true if I had been habituated to myth. I was not, but nonetheless, the world changed in every way that could be perceived, and it has continued to do so with every subsequent experience. The texture of the air changes, as does the color of it all as well as the weight and dimensions of my body, the nature of sound and the velocity of time. And everything moves together with such precision that if I could distinguish any seams in the environment they were totally without significance. Those are just a fraction of the effects. Energy rises from just below the hips, firing up through the guts in surprisingly cool but dense flames that stretch the body, explode in the chest and free the lungs of all constriction so the next breath has infinite capacity. And those are just a fraction…

This is the place from where a shaman finds the shaman’s song. All of the current writers observing the shaman like to quote c interviews with Aua, the Eskimo Shaman. All of these shamanic overview authors pay Aua homage and weigh in with his story of how he learned his song. He seemed to have been in some sort of extremis one day when he saw a little shore bird called an aua, whereupon the man fell into an ecstatic rapture and spontaneously composed his power song. I could, as they say, relate to that.

Years ago as a teenage hobo I was hitchhiking west after visiting a friend on the Rosebud Rez in South Dakota. The scene was a backwater crossroads in the middle of northern Nebraska, in the middle of October, in the middle of the afternoon when the heat was unseasonable but had no sharp summer edges and it eased the time by as if it were wide and deep. It was a recently harvested landscape with stubbled ocher horizon hills and yellow cottonwoods mid-distance. There I pulled myself up into the cab of an 18–wheeler and settled in. I had just scored a ride almost all the way home. The driver waited for some traffic to pass, dropped in both boxes and bore down on the fuel. The trailer was overloaded so the tractor fell back hard on the rear axles, roared and quaked, hammered against inertia and surged out onto the blacktop. All that power trying to propel all that steel vibrated up from the ground through me and out into the entropic universe and I went into an ecstatic trance. It was not the first time, mystic that I was even then. But it had one memorable feature, for rising with that power came a song that was being composed down around my root chakra. It had no coherent words, but it was full of words that I had never heard before. They sounded through my heart and I let them go just short of my tongue. I had just enough presence of mind to keep them to myself lest I raise some alarm in the driver. That song rolled along with me for 30 or 40 miles and then faded late into the afternoon.

I am a sensualist and I relish living deep in the world because to it I trust my life. When a nondual experience of this kind arises out of an intense earthly situation I trust it is giving me the consciousness of the most profound truth of my body and capacity and the ability to translate it simultaneously into the harmonization of time, place, action and identity. I know I have forgotten any number of these events but I can list a few: working 30 hours straight on a sculpture, losing myself in composing poetry, walking into a badly storm-torn sunset, stalking elk, running D.C. streets at dawn, realizing a guiding life-long truth—age 17–-hitchhiking west out of Flagstaff, sinking in meditation into an state of unconsciousness to everything except all-encompassing bliss, realizing the liberating value of my total insignificance while driving down a highway in southeast Wyoming, waiting for a gunfight, doing shamanic style energy healing that worked, the first time I heard Emmylou Harris sing Racing in the Streets, racing horses, racing cars, driving a much too tiny boat in profoundly bad water when one second finds me in abject terror of a standing wave I can’t see around, I can’t see over because I can see nothing but all that thick brown water and dirty white foam curling back down upon me. But the next second I am assured that I am immortal, that mistakes are impossible. I can read every molecule of water in that wave, time stands still and allows me to do everything I need to do with no effort at all…the world changes and all that happened three paragraphs above happens again.

The other things I trust explicitly are dreams. I have awakened with dream images perfect before my eyes and in full, ecstatic, non-dual awareness. In fact two such dreams and the awareness that arose from them prompted me to spend about five years (part time) trying to create a universal unified field theory not unlike Ken Wilber’s attempts to do so with his AQAL theory. I quit that fool’s errand when I realized with almost absolute certainty that the image I thought I was drawing of the universe was actually the image of my psyche.

I am a sensualist and not a thinker, nor a spiritualistic thinker. I do not hold with anything that has to do with any aspect of what could be called Spirit or The Divine or any of the other 10,000 names. I have no superstitions about these nondual suppositions. But I do have a theory. I am sure it is not unique and doubt if any of these conclusions are new and original and I have no authority on which to base them. But they have everything to do with integral, not the academic metaphysical/spiritual integral theories, but that which is material.

Until my participation on that particular internet forum compelled me to research Wilberismo and correlated tangents I had not read much except poetry for years. When I first heard there was a need for an integral philosophy and Mr. Wilber was slaving away, multi-media, to prove there was such a thing, I had to wonder why. Why develop a theory as to everything being integrated when anyone with half a set of senses and a shred of instinct left on how to use them could know for certain that integral reality is plainly, manifestly, there to be known and navigated? It exists on the leading edge of now when all that is within one’s sphere manifests into perception; when everything including the perceiver cascades into a spherical, dimensionless veil of the senses as a perfectly integrated pattern; an instantaneous, seamless legacy of 13.7 billion years (give or take) of uninterrupted cause/effect-cause. That this pattern is tumultuously dynamic does not change the fact that it has total formational integrity. I will call it manifest non-duality in the sense that the non-dual is not a static state but an emergent event. Like Whitehead said, everything is an event. And even though all the events are seamlessly bound and at once both cause and effect, this does not mean there is anything predetermined or intelligently designed in what I have perceived. (Both of those superstitions, I believe, are artifacts from dualistic thought and the desperate safety seeking of anthropomorphic projection.) There is an accidental and random quality to the patterns like the accidental and random quality of colored shards of glass tumbling past the mirrors and prisms of a kaleidoscope.

When an event cuts one loose from habituated conditioning that lead into a disorienting state, if the instincts for life outweigh the fear of living, the senses and instincts haul the consciousness into a much more complete alignment along the dimensionless front edge of now, manifestation and life. This is the only place I have found that is actual and whole, where integration is so complete that it is no longer of conscious consideration. Then the universe changes because one is no longer drawing back to observe it, but is pegged balanced and upright in one’s tiny, and totally insignificant vessel. That’s integrity.

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About Steven Nickeson

I've been a cowboy and a hobo and a truck driver and a newspaper reporter and magazine editor. I've written two text books on Native American property rights and been awarded national prizes for investigative journalism. I've ridden horses, all named Alpo, damned hard in the Westerns. I was once a range detective for Santo Domingo Pueblo and a private investigator for 18 years. I've also been a manuscript physician and writing tutor and journalism teacher and consultant to a literary agent. I've been a fencing contractor, and a welder in one of the most beautiful opera houses in the world and read Nordic Runes as a contract oracle on several psychic hot lines. My occupation for the last 19+ years is "Artist/Blacksmith" and I've done better at being an artist than any other calling. For nearly half of my life I have had an address along The Pan American Highway (Carretera Panamericana) in five cities/towns/villages, five counties, four states, two nations, two continents. I am in some way wedded to that road. View all posts by Steven Nickeson

10 responses to “Flow: Upright in the Vessel

  • Phil

    Hi Steven,

    I find your experience inhabits your
    words in a compelling way. There is
    much to agree with. I’d like to respond to a couple of salient points.
    There is a perceptual synchronicity that occurs in instances that you describe as ‘the flow’ and shamanic vision/song. Others through time have had similar experiences but name it differently. Thaddeus Golas, for example, would say he was expanding into the universe, vibrating on a higher plane. The triggers for these experiences vary. My first happened during an EDE/NDE, at around 10 yrs of age. There have been other experiences of ‘the flow’ since then with different stimulii. The commonality (imo) of these axis are that we achieve existance and total focus in a “moment.” We then perceive reality in a different way.

    Before Wilber, there was Einstein. They used different approaches to reach similar conclusions, I think. The trap that Wilberites and other well intentioned people fall into, is to substitute other’s judgement for their own without the benefit of a rational test.

    You said, (I absolutely love this
    concept!) that “all the events are
    seamlessly bound and at once both cause and effect, this does not mean there is anything predetermined or intelligently designed in what I have perceived. (Both of those superstitions, I believe, are artifacts from dualistic thought and the desperate safety seeking of !!!
    anthropomorphic projection.!!!)

    Fear and superstition. The need to
    explain and rationalize what we can’t
    understand. Kant and later, Feuerbach
    should be required reading for
    Wilberites and Goddites alike.

    p

  • Brad F

    Thanx Steven. Your beautifully woven words had a strong effect: reminded me, and brought about a recurrence, of those moments of Integral Flow.

    See you soon!

  • rob larkin

    Thanks Steven for your words…

    The last paragraph really hit the mark for me. Living in a place that is not ‘habitual’ in many ways gives me the gift of standing on that edge, naked yet immortal.

  • Jim C

    a nice slice of flow.. that only comes with … experience and talent of storytelling… being immersed in the use of language to trace around a truth until it emerges like an image out of chaos.

    wresting integral out of the clutches of the commercialization of what IS.

  • feral

    “This is the only place I have found that is actual and whole, where integration is so complete that it is no longer of conscious consideration. Then the universe changes because one is no longer drawing back to observe it, but is pegged balanced and upright in one’s tiny, and totally insignificant vessel. Integral.”

    Just so, Steven! Yum!

  • Michael D

    Ah Steven, such a pleasure to read your essays. Thank you again. Please do keep them coming…

    Your friend…
    MD

  • James Barrow

    Brilliant, thanks Steven.

    This made me nod and smile: “I quit that fool’s errand when I realized with almost absolute certainty that the image I thought I was drawing of the universe was actually the image of my psyche. I suspect the same of Wilber’s work.”

    And this: “I will call it manifest non-duality in the sense that the non-dual is not a static state but an emergent event.”

    James

  • Mark DuBois

    A toast to you Steven…

    Cheers,
    Mark

  • Starlight

    WOW…this was flowing nicely Steven…can so relate to this…and loving your experience of Flow…you rock!!!

    much joy, always, Star…

  • Marianthi

    You give here your truth: beautifully, sensually, completely exposed without hesitation.

    What more can I say Steven, except that I so much agree with it, with you, that I´d marry you all over again and again and again.

    Yummm.
    M.

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