As a child, my grandmother was my first spiritual teacher and many of the things she taught me have stayed in my awareness over all these many years. One of the things she taught me I’ve written about before—the raincloud of knowable things. What continues to touch me about this concept is how vividly it reminds me that I’m never alone, that I am always and inevitably part of something much bigger than myself. In this case, it reminds me that I’m part of a vast collective consciousness that contains the wisdom of all humans across all time and that I and everyone else contributes to and draws from this collective all the time. This is an idea that has supported my work as a trauma specialist in psychotherapy and it is an idea that has given me hope even when things may have looked profoundly bleak.
It also touches into an experience that gets stronger for me as I age—that I am in community with a reciprocal environment all the time. I saw an illustration of this the other day as I walked across Central Park. I noticed a gentleman, early in the morning, taking cans and bottles out of the trash bins scattered throughout the park. It was a Monday morning, so the bins had quite a few offerings and I began to think about how this man’s activities support recycling, and that he contributes something meaningful that I usually wouldn’t know anything about. That got me to thinking about all the activities going on in my world that I don’t see and yet add to the quality and support of my life. It reminded me of the fact that, even at subtle levels, we constantly contribute to and draw from our collective environment.
For this week’s practice, I invite you to pay attention, perhaps even more than you do already, to what you contribute to our collective consciousness as you move through your daily life and, perhaps, what you also contribute to our more visible, material collective. For example, note the tone of your thoughts as feelings when you are on auto-pilot, when you’re just moving through daily activities. What qualities are your thoughts and feelings contributing to our human collective? As you engage people and tasks along the way, what do you bring to your material world? Do you engage your daily experiences with awareness, respect, kindness? Or, do you move through chores and interactions with irritation or impatience? If you’re walking along and see trash right underfoot, do you pick it up and place it in a trash bin? If someone walking in front of you drops something, do you call their attention to it so they won’t lose it?
When I think of the Raincloud of Knowable Things, I also think of the ways in which the focus of our thoughts and feelings resonate with those same qualities in our human collective, magnifying whatever has our attention in any given moment. For example, if you’re angry at someone and chewing on that anger in your self-talk, you’ll automatically draw on the anger in our human collective, augmenting what you’re feeling already. At the same time, you’ll contribute your measure of anger to what’s already there. It’s the same with hopelessness, fear, delight, joy…
This practice isn’t asking you to become worried about what you may or may not be doing that affects our human collective consciousness, nor to worry about how this all affects you. Instead, it’s to invite you to consider that there is a dynamic relationship going on within which you play an active role in an ever-present collective that includes all of us. If you’re more comfortable thinking about this in terms of what Rupert Sheldrake calls “morphic fields”, which are fields of information generated by species on the planet, it’s all the same thing. Play with what words and concepts work best for you, with a thought in mind that we all affect one another all the time and we are all in relationship with one another all the time.
Remember to bring along curiosity as your constant companion, and to pat gently on the head any judgments that may arise, and arise they generally will. Also notice how powerfully affected you are by where you focus your attention and to what you give the gift of your awareness.