Last Fall, returning from a retreat in Santa Cruz CA during the equinox, I traveled eastward back to New York on a five hour night flight with a window seat on the north side of the plane.We gradually climbed up into the night sky, and as the plane adjusted its route toward New York, flying at about 30,000 feet, I looked out the window into the night.
I looked . . . .in awe: I was sitting literally in front of the Big Dipper, my window just big enough to frame the entire constellation with the North Star on top. I adjusted my pillow and sat quietly.The Handle of the Dipper was pointing back West, almost parallel to our plane.
The great peace, balance, and openness of the constellation started to infuse my being. The Big Dipper was an open heart harmonizing the entire sky with the balancing communion evident among all the Dipper’s stars.
Since the North Star is the star most in line with the Earth’s axis, it becomes the “pivot of the sky”, with other stars and constellations – most directly the Big Dipper - appearing to revolve around it. The Handle of the Big Dipper points to the four directions as we go through the seasons of the year. In the Spring the handle of the Big Dipper points East, in Summer, it points South, in the Fall to the West, and in the Winter to the North.
As we know, ancient people, especially at sea, used to look for the North Star to orient themselves.For Taoists, who cultivate deep attunement with nature, the North Star and the Big Dipper subtly orient and govern human life, and, as the pivot of the sky, the North Star is an energetic portal connecting us to high spiritual awareness and inner and outer balance.
Within the confines of my narrow window seat, I was remaining still, receiving and listening. As our plane continued its flight into the night, with its little lights rhythmically flickering, the Big Dipper continued to stay at the very center of my window, its silent teaching offered to all.
In the plane many were asleep, most quite inventively contorted in order to find the right nesting position. Some were kept entertained by the film in progress, an offering designed to provide the illusion of comfort in our crampedconditions. That night it was Mission Impossible III, and Tom Cruise sometimes flickered in and out of my peripheral vision, making great, apparently wrenching efforts to be in charge and commanding in a situation of seemingly great chaos.
The Big Dipper made no effort. It was simply, vastly there. Its presence was making me present. I felt safe and protected because in its presence, I was becoming the harmony of nature, this harmony so vast and far reaching that fear and shadowy influences cannot even start to form.Tonight, the universal programming channel was showing “The Big Dipper”, and I had selected the universal program!
Tonight, The Big Dipper was subtly teaching me that the human heart can commune with and share heavenly harmony and peace and that the domain of the heart is that universally vast and far reaching. When I experienced humanity at its best, wasn’t it the Big Dipper in people I was experiencing?
The rugged father holding his month old child in his arms, protective and attentive, and the slightly overwhelmed young mother still managing to care for her daughter among the various pieces of luggage,the police encumbered with their heavy equipment of pistols, handcuffs, etc, still managing to chat, laugh and smile with each other, the older gentleman quietly cleaning up and tidying his table after his snack, human love, deference, happiness, respect, and civility -- weren’t all these a little bit of the Big Dipper at the San Jose airport?
As we were traveling across the US continent, I noticed that the earth was entirely covered with lights, sometimes randomly sprinkled, like an echo of the distant stars in the sky, sometimes clustered like a backlit motherboard filled with glittering computer chips, twinkling like diamonds in the night. Humans were echoing the stars with their artificial lights, and through this northern air travel route, the US continent was just a continuous sea of lights.
So I was going back and forth between the human lights and the stars of the Big Dipper.The glittering computer chips, our cities, were so attractive, the lights so bright, the elaborate grid designs offering such interesting compositions, with silvers and golds, sometimes copper-like lights and bright metallic blues: my eyes were experiencing rivers of jewels.
After a while though, I felt how draining this attraction was, I was pulled and strongly drawn into the intricate details. . . Our cities are very well organized, the grid and its clear, clean, straight lines as the foundation structure. The crystal clear lines of the grids, the intricacies of the criss-crossing patterns, the lights of our societies were immediately so tempting. . . But were these organizations truly supportive of humanity, the universal heart, and life? What did our Earth-bound city lights express in the context of the vast night sky?
Again I saw the Big Dipper with its gentle order and open harmonious communications, simple, and balanced. The difference between the fashionable starlike coat we had made for our planet and the night sky was great.I felt that the Earth did not particularly like this artificial garment which was preventing her to breathe; when I looked at our city lights, I forgot to breathe too! Also this synthetic garment blanketing the Earth with artificial light prevented Mother Earth and her human inhabitants from freely receiving the nourishing radiations of the stars.At some point, would she simply tear the garment off to free herself?Only when we flew over the water of the great lakes, was our planet without her jeweled garment, so I took deep breaths and probably the Earth did the same.We replenished ourselves with the lights of the Big Dipper.
We still echo somewhat the lights of the stars, but I saw us so cut off from the natural inspiration from the sky, so much in disharmony with the cosmos with our cutting-edge styles, that I wondered for how much longer our exhausted inspirations could possibly continue to produce these complex constructs.
The US is covered with billions of artificial night lights, our societies produce increasingly high levels of stress and we exhaust our planet and our natural resources to do so. But we cannot connect with the Cosmic Source, we have lost the space and time to truly see, to listen, to receive. We are continuously involved in the intricacies of our little networks, our artificial jewels. We are so busy quantifying and classifying, making everything fit under our monkey mind grids, that we seem to have lost our natural, human ability for broad, balanced vision.
Our religions themselves have become such complex labyrinths of stories, ideas and systems that we lose ourselves in the differences and forget that we are so much more similar than different. . . Why isn’t such a natural expression of harmony, openness, peace and vastly gentle order as the one expressed by the Big Dipper our choice for an inspiring guide to support and nourish our human enterprises? Why aren’t we opening up our grids to welcome the natural light and wisdom of the sky so we can become again the real stewards of our planet and of universal life?
One can never exhaust writing about the beauty of nature, and true beauty, true teaching, just like true human expression, is open. Our limited expressions and our creations always escape a complete translation of the depths of nature and of human experience unless the words become poetry, unless photography becomes art, unless science becomes truly creative, unless urban planning and architecture are inspired by the vast human heart. Then, the expression may be imperfect but its harmony lives, breathes, and advances true humanity. It vibrates with universal nature and nourishes the heart.
As I was pondering these thoughts, the Big Dipper by now had dipped, the handle pointing down behind the horizon.We had almost reached Newark airport and sun light was starting to color the east. I sat back in peace, ready to welcome the day’s luminous energy. Our plane smoothly started its descent toward the ground and a few minutes later, we had landed.
For your own practice
As a natural energy cultivator and practicing Chi healer, I have practiced for a long time communing directly with nature to find deep knowledge, support, inspiration and healing, and I continue to find inexhaustible bounty in the energies of the sun, moon and stars, mountains, rivers, trees, rocks and simple hills. However, this travel with the Big Dipper allowed for a profound recognition that the natural sky may help all of us strengthen our personal “axis” and cultivate the natural universal wisdom that is so urgently needed at this time.
The Big Dipper is usually visible between 7 and 9 pm or later in the night sky.Quietly watching it should give you much peace, comfort and inspiration. If you are unfamiliar with the North Star and the Big Dipper, study a star map beforehand (there are rotating star maps which are very helpful). While under the stars, avoid pointing at them with your fingers as this breaks your spiritual connection with them. To strengthen your spiritual communion with the stars, simply let your whole being quietly receive the starlight while under the stars.
Additional note for Feng Shui lovers: Feng Shui knowledge directly comes from ancient peoples ‘ deep connection with their natural environment. Compass School Feng Shui uses the Magic Square (the essential translation of the energetic influence on earth of the nine stars of the Big Dipper) to evaluate the starry influences in different areas or directions over time. I find that dedicated study of the I Ching (a classic Taoist text) and cultivating a deep connection with the Sun, Moon, Stars and Planets is the best fundamental study to guide intuition on these and other matters.For an in-depth study of the Magic Square and the natural spiritual implications of the sky, we highly recommend this superb rendition of the I Ching: The Book of Changes and the Unchanging Truth, by Hua-Ching Ni, available at www.taoofwellness.com
Happy Star Gazing!
Claire C. Cunneen and her husband P. Francis Cunneen are Taoist mentors and healers in the NY metropolitan area. See the Satya Center alt.healer directory listing for more information about them & their healing center, EverSpring Acupuncture Center.