Jean Marie Gunner

Jean Marie Gunner
We are all basically good.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Basic Goodness of Mustangs


Our world is full of magic.  I am referring to the most ordinary, commonplace daily magic of answers being delivered just when we need them.  These answers come in many forms.  We may have a friend on our mind after a disagreement, and for some reason we aren’t even consciously aware of we turn our heads upward and our eyes lock on our friend’s favorite bird flying overhead.  Ordinary magic.

My eyes often seem to catch the flight of great blue herons, and I am moved in ways that cannot even begin to be described in words.  This bird is mythical in nature yet is a very real and tangible part of our world.  The great blue heron for me signifies an ancient nature that dwells within all of us and it flies with such grace and elegance.  It transports me to open space outside of time. 

Animals share our world with us and yet are by some human beings treated as less than sentient beings.  They may be abused or used by corporations to test drugs or other consumer products.  This is fundamentally dangerous.  It demonstrates an intrinsic lack of understanding of the essence of all life and the interconnectedness of every being.

Many years ago when I was in my early 20s I was living for the first time away from home in Chicago.  I was not overly confident at that time and really was fearful but I had attained a certain comfort level within myself to strike out on my own to attend graduate school in a new city.  I was certainly courageous and daring even if I was frightened to be alone and on my own.  I found a new freedom though at that time in the world and in my being in the world.  I realized what I had always known -- that I liked to be alone.  I felt relaxed and in my element when I was walking the city blocks by myself or biking the streets of Chicago to and from work.

I attended outdoor concerts and neighborhood festivals by myself.  I sat in coffee houses writing in my journal and reading books and went to the independently-owned movie houses to see foreign and independent films.  I really loved Chicago for so many reasons.  I came of age there, I came to know myself intimately, my fears, my loves, my genuine heart of sadness all floated up to the surface.  Despite finding myself, opening myself to myself and the world and learning to trust my instincts, I wanted to meet someone special, to experience the beauty and tragedy and joy of living with someone who was like minded and kind and open.  I made many friends, some still friends to this day.  I knew that friends and girlfriends specifically were gems that I needed to stay grounded and awake in this world.

My search for that one special person to get me led me into one relationship and another and another, a real revolving door of lovers and boyfriends.  My habitual pattern was to find someone else before ending the previous relationship so I wouldn’t have that sense of being alone.  It is easy to look back and play connect the dots, seeing clearly how each relationship led to the next and the next stage of my life and learning.  Also looking back I see that it wasn’t all about me and never was.  If I had realized that sooner I could have saved myself a lot of heartbreak, emotional turmoil, depression and angst. 

In the middle of my stay in Chicago, I knew that the revolving door and the continual need to fill up some bottomless vessel in my heart was depleting me, robbing me of my vital force and energy to be alive for myself and to help others.  I always had a sense that caring for others would bring me greater joy and serenity than focusing on myself and my little dramatic world.

My first journey alone away from Chicago was to Arizona, to the land of barren scrub and desert heat.  I went to see the Painted Desert, to walk through ancient Indian ruins, to feel and experience the red rocks of Sedona, to meander through Jerome, an abandoned, dusty ole desert mining town.  I flew into Phoenix and spent a night in a little motel alternately calling my former boyfriend and a lover, wanting them to take away the ache, the loneliness, the fearfulness. I can still see myself lying on the bed hanging up the phone from the last call and crying my eyes out.  Crying because of my uncertainty, my aching sadness, all the while seeing that the answers were within my reach, within me all the time.

I spend that week hiking the red rock canyon, riding horses, eating Huevos Rancheros for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I loved that journey and how it broke me open a little more despite my grasping to these boyfriends with expectations that they could make all my sadness disappear.  The next year I returned to the southwest this time New Mexico to join up with a group of people working in the world of recovery.  The weekend program was called Path of Maximum Service.  I knew even then that to be of service to others, to be happy myself and at peace, I had to learn to help others. 

My visit to the Navajo and Hopi lands made a lifelong lasting impression on me.  The day before I was expected to meet up with my group, I visited the Four Corners (Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico) and toured with a group to see the ancient pictographs on the monolithic red stones.  A young handsome Navajo man asked if I would be camping that night and if he could join my campfire.  I just knew I had to say no.  I struck out for the open desert road and as the day turned from dusk to night, a torrential rain began causing many inches of water to stand on this long dark stretch of desert highway.  Flash floods in the desert are not unusual and I arrived in a small town, ordered my usual, Huevos Rancheros, and my waitress suggested that I take the last room in town.  I needed little convincing.  I fell asleep that night very late and had to get up way before sunrise to make it from where I was in Utah to Santa Fe by mid-morning. 

With my belly still full from the night before dinner, I hit the road and drove into the early morning.  The stretch of desert highway can be so hypnotic, I feel like I become a part of the landscape rather than as observer.  I am no longer destination driven but awake and relaxed in the moment.  As the sun began to make its ascent, a herd of feral horses, Mustangs, came into view.  They were running alongside the road as a drove.  I just couldn’t believe my eyes, the power, the majesty, the natural elegance and dignity of these beings.  I knew then and have never doubted since that animals are sentient beings that feel and know.  The wild herds of horses in New Mexico are Mustangs.  I can still vividly see in my mind’s eye their coloring, and their rippling muscles beneath their skin.  They were large and muscular strong runners with an air of tremendous confidence.

How often do we wish for things to be a certain way, another way than what is.  Many of us struggle with this and there are very often particular areas with which we really struggle.  As we edge ourselves in a certain direction in our mind with someone or something, we begin to attach the idea of it.  The idea is not solid but somehow we feel that without it we may perish. 

The truth is that grasping and clinging will never bring happiness, only more suffering.  Hoping is hopeless and indicates an attachment to a mentality of never having enough, that we are never enough.  With this mindset and view, we will be continually disappointed.  “We are just attached to being attached.”

What is there when we let go…space.  Space by definition is empty and in our society we may think of emptiness as bad, negative, lonely.  Yet, space or emptiness is where freedom lies.  We can take this freedom which is devoid of our concepts and thoughts and labels and assumptions, and see that it offers us a palette, a clean open free palette to view the world.  In this place we can touch compassion and experience what is known as basic goodness, the fundamental good that our world is.  When we strip away the assumptions, what do we have -- free, open, clear, relaxed mind.  And we can breathe here.  We can run free like the southwestern Mustangs I encountered all these years ago. 

The basic core of all life and all being is goodness, shining, lovely effortless space to be, who we are, who we have always been.

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