The colorful toucans squawked from within their tiny cage, "Why would any free spirit ever confine another free being?"
The incarceration had rendered the once vibrant birds withdrawn and lifeless captives. Their eyes cried this piercing question just as the same bewilderment echoes from the dull gaze of every animal in every zoo, "Why would any being with heart ever drive the dagger of imprisonment into the heart of another being?"
The answer is obvious. No being with heart would shackle another free being. No being whose spirit still lives would ever kill the spirit of another being—by any means.
The beseeching toucans were on exhibit at the country inn where I stayed in Costa Rica. The innkeeper explained he was building a huge cage around a tree so the birds would have a whole tree around which to fly and live. But the confined birds told me they didn’t want a larger enclosure. No cage would ever be big enough. Their spirits needed to be free. After a few days, I could no longer look into the toucans’ eyes. Before long, I avoided going near their cage altogether.
Instead of focusing on the plight of the caged toucans, I was guided by my inner coach to explore the free and untamed treasures of the stunningly vibrant and beautiful country of Costa Rica. During my travels, I was blessed by direct encounters with wild animals, virgin forests, raging rivers and an erupting volcano. In their natural state, these diverse elements of life were undomesticated, unbridled, unfettered and unspoiled. Every cell of my body felt the raw, free essence of each basic kingdom of nature: mammal, reptile, bird, plant, water and mineral.
I connected with a sloth hanging out in its jungle haunt, a tabor scouring the forest carpet for grubs, a crocodile sunning in a sultry swamp and a very curious iguana checking me out through the mist of a waterfall. I shuddered at the primitive roar of jaguars too close for comfort. I witnessed reptiles called "Jesus lizards" with so much aliveness they literally walk on water, skimming across the surface on webbed feet.
I reveled in the unrestrained, exuberant expression of brilliant orchids, enticing mushrooms and outlandish fungi. The beauty and grace of exotic parrots, wild toucans and resplendent quetzal birds awed me. I was gratefully battered by the uncontrollable strength of ocean surf. Standing at the edge of an exploding volcanic cauldron, I exalted in the undiluted rapture of the fiery, flowing lava.
Soon I began to appreciate my soul’s purpose in sending me to this lush, virgin land. My spirit’s strategy was for me to encounter so many dynamic examples of the exhilaration of raw nature that I would break through to the other side of my rigid, conditioned, overly civilized state of being. And I did!
Through diverse outer appearances of vitality, I connected with the inner source that animates all forms of life. I danced with deer riding waves of natural electricity over grassy hills. I soared with caracara hawks spiraling with wind currents above luxuriant valleys. I clamored with howler monkeys playing in the rain forest canopy. I surrendered with meandering sea turtles to rhythmic tidal currents.
On the surface, animals, plants, rocks and volcanoes appear to be solid forms. Through intimate contact, I discovered firsthand that what creates these seemingly immutable shapes is primal life force, the basic essence generating and driving all forms of life.
A volcano in Costa Rica was the natural element that shared this secret with me in the most dramatic, effective and revealing way. When the molecules of mountain granite are sped up by intense heat, the true nature of this solid form is disclosed as being fluid, moving, alive energy. Universal life force is so fundamental and powerful, it melts granite. It transforms the most condensed form of matter into molten lava, liquid rock. Primordial life force is so alive, pure, wild and basic that it’s potent enough to liberate the most rigid crystallized matter into free-flowing life expression.
My soul arranged for me to "accidentally" stumble through the dense fog onto an active lava flow for the purpose of exposing me in a very palpable, tangible way to the true nature of all reality. Walking on this semi-solid river of fire, I absorbed the raw, innocent, spontaneous vital energy lying at the core of all physical manifestations of life. I merged with the alchemical power of basic life force—uncontrollable, undiluted and pristine.
The direct transmission I received from the volcano and all the other wild creatures of Costa Rica is that this fundamental life force energy is as available to us humans as it is to them! If we choose to unite with this energy and allow divine alchemy, we also can become one with the pure, primal, passionate, undivided, unqualified, unlimited expression of life. This underlying flow is referred to by the Chinese as the Tao—the river of knowing, the central stream of consciousness, the God current that is our true nature and essence.
The harsh contrast between the toucans in captivity and the toucans in the wild awakened me to the magnitude of the aliveness and connection we humans lost somewhere along the way in our collective life journey. The fact that we cage toucans and other animals in zoos and homes around the world is a clear indication of how far we have removed ourselves from the natural vitality and joy of freedom—both our own and that of other inhabitants of Earth.
Our human quest for love, security and energy cannot be achieved as long as we remain in a state of consciousness in which we systematically seek to control the freedom of our fellow beings—human and otherwise. In the process of "civilizing" our species, we humans have become conditioned to not feel deep, dynamic passion and love for life. Our collective heart, the world’s heart, has become so crystallized and armored that it is now as hard and cold as the granite of a mountain. Our collective heart has turned to stone. Only a granite heart could do what we are doing to the natural expression of life—within ourselves and on the planet.
The original Old English meaning of the word panic was "of the nature of Pan: wild and free-flowing." But now we humans are so shut down, controlling and cut off from nature—and from our own vital electric nature—that we experience "wild and free-flowing" energy as scary and threatening. Life’s creative enthusiasm sends us into a panic in the modern sense. Most of us are terrified of living fully alive and free.
How can we humans reverse this process? How can we melt the granite façades of our public institutions—and our own faces—that so starkly reflect the state of our hardened soul? How can we re-light the pilot light and stoke the cosmic fire within us?
As I melded with the effusive wildness of Costa Rica, I unearthed an answer. We humans can re-connect to our natural aliveness by opening to a force that is more powerful than our programming, more compelling than our collective conditioning. The force that can liberate us is universal life energy, primal life force. This unbridled exuberance abounds everywhere around us—and within us. Fortunately, cultural conditioning cannot control primal life force. This raw creative energy is free and innocent of all human concepts and beliefs. Primal life force doesn’t follow its own drumbeat; it is the drumbeat.
Primal life force is more fundamental, more basic, than our human psychological and cultural creations. In reality, this power provides the lifeblood, essence and juice that sustains and supports the entire human culture currently existing on the planet. Primal life flow is the natural energy source that literally runs our human creations.
Several years ago, a wall of red-hot lava streamed down the side of a volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii cutting right through a village located between the volcano and the ocean. So intense was the temperature of the boiling lava, its radiant energy vaporized the wood and cement foundations of the human structures before the lava physically touched the foundations. All traces of the village and human habitation were annihilated in the wake of the lava inferno as it made its way to the sea.
Modern science doesn’t know a way to stop the power of the Goddess Pele, the impassioned expression of the spirit of the volcano. The human structures were not as real, fundamental or substantial as the energy of the volcano. Human concepts, beliefs and paradigms trying to overlay and dominate nature are no match for the raw, creative primal power of natural vigor.
The vibration of original vitality, passion and excitement is strong enough to melt our collective granite heart. Just as primal life force vaporized the not-so-solid foundations of the Hawaiian physical structures, primal life force can dissolve the foundations of the psychological structure that makes us think we need to control and feel separate from other life in order to get enough energy to survive.
One key to becoming fully revitalized is to reconnect with universal life force in such a way that we are not only fed by it, but also transformed by it. If we resonate with the abundant aliveness all around us, divine alchemy will transmute us into the experience of being that eternal essence of life energy. When we become one with universal life force, we are able to draw our very sustenance, supply and security from our own source within. We are sovereign, self-generating, in terms of where we get our energy. Sourcing our own energy, we then have enough personal power to melt the crystallized granite heart within ourselves and our culture. And until we walk with the authentic sovereignty of natural vitality, we won’t have the courage and strength to go out and love with true spirit and fulfill our core purposes on Earth.
Another crucial aspect of the message I received from the wildness of Costa Rica is that to be successful on our quest, we humans need to open to this primordial energy through direct, pure, spontaneous, innocent and fresh means. We cannot approach this enterprise from an old paradigm or model. For, if we seek natural, organic vitality in an unnatural, nonorganic way, we won’t uncover the pure source we seek. To approach aliveness in a sequential, methodical, linear manner prevents us from contacting its basic nature. This natural aliveness does not exist within the framework or box in which we currently exist as a society. Pure, free life expression lives outside of our cultural conditioning, underneath it, behind it—beyond it.
We can reclaim our natural power only if we approach the challenge in a manner that is new, wild, free, unexpectant and in-the-moment. If this alive space is sought in any way that is familiar or known, it won’t be found. Where we’re going and what we’re looking for isn’t located on any existing cultural map.
The way to natural vitality is uncharted because the very finding of this energy transforms us and our universe to such an extent that no previous map, blueprint or paradigm is relevant. By the very nature of the goal—aliveness—the path to the goal remains fresh and spontaneous, impossible to document or plan.
No methodology, technique or structured approach can ever remain valid for any period of time—or even a second time—to assist us in reaching this vibrant state. This space, once achieved, once embodied, once lived, is so free, transforming, creative and constantly changing that any existing map, chart or way won’t take us there a second time. Strategies previous to this moment take us to old places and old experiences. Really cool, but not current. Pleasant, but not present. Potent, but not profound.
To undertake this odyssey in the most advantageous way, my inner coach suggests a simple, direct, personal approach. To rekindle our fire of aliveness, we can open to peak moments in our life when we experienced a strong connection to the vibration of raw, creative primal life flow. Many of us can’t think of—or remember—a time when we did merge with this basic life force. Fortunately, it doesn’t matter that our memory of our true nature is blocked by our mind. We can employ our intuition as a guide, instead of the mind. Our intuition knows where and how to access this vibration of vitality. Our intuition knows how to remove or go around any barriers or denial. Behind our veils of fear, dismissal, distraction, invalidation and misinterpretation are hundreds of firsthand encounters with this universal fire. Within each of us lies a treasure house of direct personal experiences readily available for the enhancement and transformation of our everyday life.
The heart of Costa Rica radiated one primal message, "Go for the juice, the electricity. Forget the form."
If whatever is happening in the moment looks and sounds right, but doesn’t feel intuitively right to you, then it’s not right. It isn’t what you’re meant to be doing at that moment—it isn’t what is spiritually appropriate or indicated for you to be doing at that precise time.
In regard to any situation, the key question to ask yourself is, "For me, in the moment, is there passion, aliveness, heart?"
If there is not, then you are not in the right place, no matter how convincing the outer appearance might be. Let it go.
The spirit of the Earth urges, "Move on. Stay open. Keep flowing."
In an Arizona canyon twenty years ago, a venerable Hopi medicine man named Medicine Cloud shared a keen observation with me, "Everything you need to know about life you can learn from streams and clouds."
I now know what he meant.