Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Back to the Garden

"Like the First Morning"

I begin every day sitting in my meditation garden watching the sun rise over the Eastern mountains. 

This morning I thought about one of my very favorite Bible stories - the story about the "Garden of Paradise," found in the Book of Genesis in the Hebrew scriptures. This beautiful story is hardly a scientific or historical description about the origins of creation, rather it is a tender poem about what it means to be a human being.  It is a story about the loss of original innocence -a  story about  humankind's deep-rooted longing to become innocent once again.

The Genesis narrative paints a picture of the beginning of creation as a time of perfect "oneness" - sky and sea, rivers and trees, birds and fish and humankind (Adam and Eve) all living in perfect harmony with one another in the "Garden of Paradise."  However, Adam and Eve choose to eat of the forbidden fruit and the "oneness" is shattered into pieces. 

The story says that, immediately after they ate the fruit, Adam and Eve recognized they were naked. Such a beautifully poetic way to say that they learned the "oneness" was broken.  Adam and Eve looked inward (that's how they realized they were naked).  Up until that time, their gaze had been outward; they were "one with" the harmonious flow.  But now they saw themselves as separate individuals, so they covered themselves. They leave the garden and build walls, establish borders and delineate boundaries. The "I" is separated from the "other."  It is a story of the birth of the ego, the loss of innocence, the loss of the original "oneness." 

As I sit in my own garden and think about that story of the "Garden of Paradise," it occurs to me how powerful the story is. It expresses the deepest desires and longing of every human heart.

We all long to get back to the garden once again.  Somehow deep in our DNA every human being desires that original innocence. We long for transcendence. We search for "enlightenment."  We sit within the walls of our egos and yet somehow, at some very profound level we know that this separated self is not our true self. Our true self is a "relationship." We are "inter-being." There are no different others. We want to get back to the garden.

The author, Jean Giono, reflects on a "thin place" moment he experienced in his childhood as he was lying down face-down in his garden in Provence, France. It is a wonderfully poetic telling of original oneness, a story of innocence before it is lost, a tender rendering of "getting back to the garden": 

The sap came up from the root hairs and pushed through the trees to the very tips of the leaves. It passed between the claws of the roosting birds. The bark of the tree was all there was between the blood of bird and tree. There were only these barriers of skin between. We were all like sacks of blood one touching the other. 

We were the world. I was against the earth with my whole body. The sky was pressing on my back, it was touching the birds that were touching the trees; the sap came from the rocks; the big snake yonder in the wall was rubbing against the stones. The foxes were touching the earth; the sky was pressing on their fur. The wind, the birds, the swarming ants in the earth, the villages, the forests, the flocks, we were all pressed together, atom against atom, in an enormous pomegranate, thick with our juice.

When I read this beautiful telling of a child's innocent memory of "oneness," I am brought to tears.  It rings so true to me, It is so genuine and so authentic. 

I sit in my garden as the sun rises over the Eastern mountains. I want to be innocent once again. I long to get back to the garden.

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