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Lions Roar : November 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2011 54 This happens often enough for me to realize that there’s nothing unusual about it. It’s perfectly normal for him, nothing special. When I’ve asked him about these pauses, these moments when our conversa- tion suddenly seems to open, quietly, on to a field of intelligence vibrating all around us, Jacob has told me little more than I’ve told you just now. It’s just his way. Yet it lends to our reflective walks a quality of resonant attention to the world, an attunement to surrounding shapes, sounds, and textures usually absent from the mental reveries to which most of us are accustomed. There is something in this very simple and ordinary habit of my friend that aston- ishes me. Jacob’s outward listening, in response to the inward arrival of an idea, suggests an entirely different notion of mind, and intelligence, than that to which I’ve been educated. At first I surmised that Jacob felt he had no hand in these thoughts, that they came entirely from the other beings around him—from that many- branched juniper, or that swooping mag- pie, or from the moon rising silent above the ridge. Soon, however, I learned that my friend’s understanding was subtler, that for Jacob the insights belonged no more to that juniper than they belonged to him. Rather, they were born of the encounter between them—between his mindful presence and the gnarled intelligence of that tree, between his sentient body and the earthly sentience of that place. Meaning, according to my friend, arises from meeting, from the felt contact between oneself and what is not oneself. From the encounter between oneself and another person, or a river, or the surging wind. From, ultimately, the ongoing inter- action and intercourse between oneself and the rest of the earthly cosmos. This curious understanding—this view of meaning as something that exists only in meeting—is an understanding that has gradually come to inform much of my work as an ecologist and author. Jacob’s attentive response to the sur- rounding landscape, and the implicit assumption that lies behind it—that the PHOTOBYTIMLAMAN/NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSOCIETYSTOCK