The title of my latest book is The Dirt: The Journey of a Cowboy Mystic. We have cowboy poets. Why not cowboy mystics? After all, the one essential quality of mysticism is that it chooses you as much as you choose it. No one can really set out to be a mystic. “Oh, I think I’ll be a bit mystical today.” Doesn’t work like that. No one can claim mysticism. It’s kind of like claiming sainthood or humility or wisdom. If you think you got it, you don’t. The truth is slippery, elusive. You can’t catch it in a net or at the end of a line. It doesn’t try to evade us, but to borrow a line from a famous text on the subject: the truth isn’t absent in the world, but it is obscure.
The world is a very distracting place. And with all the sound and light and flavor, it’s hard to see what may lie beyond it, much less to stay on track to get there. Misfortune, ambition, desire, power. The happenstance calamity. The pursuit of gold or of what lies between the legs; these drives at first seem to obliterate the truth. The want of them speaks first, and speaks loudly, the hint of desire chasing away the truth the way your mere glance at a butterfly seems to blow it off your shoulder.
There really is no education, no degree you can get to become a mystic. You may think that a good religious upbringing prepares one for it, maybe a few decades holed up in a monastery or nunnery, East or West. The mystics have this in common: though they may be schooled in a particular philosophy or discipline, they end up leaving its shores and sailing off beyond the sight of its land. Almost without exception, the mystics were iconoclasts. They broke molds rather than clung to them, and found confining the forms of the particular schools of thought in which they were trained. They understood that religion and philosophy are mere starting points teach form rather than content, and that content is all. They disregard the tyrannizing forms of civilization, whether those forms put on the mask of philosophy or metaphysics, of science or correctitude.
And so it was with Yale Forestall, the hero in The Dirt. He abhorred form, eschewed the commonplace without condemning it. Like all teachers, and I use the term in its loosest sense, he engaged with people, but just as often struck out on his own. Like many in his nonexclusive nonfraternity, he found solace on mountaintops, in the austerity of deserts.
Mystic. Teacher. Holy person. Bodhisattva. Some may claim these mantles for themselves, but if they do, then they probably aren’t what they claim to be. Truth is never in a word, in a definition or a title. Because it’s not about thinking. Words and definitions are limits. They represent empty intellectual forms. And yet, they’re all we have with which to paint pale shadows of the truth. That’s what The Dirt is all about.
The truth isn’t about having or possessing. Others may seek the truth as experience, yet they won’t find it. That’s what Yale always said to his sole disciple, a disillusioned ex-lawyer from the big city, Miles Holland. The truth can’t be sought since it’s not found in or through wanting. By seeking it, you push it away, push it out of awareness. Then you pretend that you’re not already there, that you’re not already bliss.
Someone once said, if you want to be happy, then just be. And that’s the ‘trick.’ But being is the hardest thing to do in human life, because it’s not a doing at all. We are not human doings, but beings. We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human one. To go out and sit in the woods and not think: that’s the hardest thing in the world to not do.
It’s not a process of addition that gets you there, said a renowned medieval mystic. It’s a process of subtraction that does. And so, many believe that it’s in the giving up of something that the truth will be found, in a sacrifice of something dear to us. Yet as long as you think that you have to give something up, you’ll never get there. Because you’ll cling to that thing as to your very name and body and to the suffering that you think comprise you. Because you’ll believe that only in giving up everything will you be able to pay enough, to earn enough, to get ‘woke.’ Yet if you needed to pay for it, you’d turn into goods bought and sold. There’s nothing to yield, nothing to surrender, nothing to be earned or suffered over. If you think that you must earn it, then someone else deserves it not. If you could pay for it, it would be a cheapened thing indeed. The only surrender you must make is the illusion that you held anything in your hands at all, that you had any control at all. Even the most powerful entity you can imagine, Power itself, is powerful because it seeks not to control, but only to surrender.
To seek it in a place called heaven, it’s not there either. To seek it in an afterlife is to squander the life lived right in front of you. Heaven isn’t a place. There is no ‘there’ that’s not already ‘here.’ To seek for it in a time which isn’t right now is a mistake, because there is no unfulfilled condition which when satisfied will make you happy then. I’ll be happy when… That’s a sentence that guarantees unhappiness. Never is it then or there. That’s what Yale tried to tried to teach Miles.
I am most spiritual when I’m not trying to be. When I’m not trying at all. Because when I try, I think I have to earn something I already am, to be somebody that I think I’m not right now, to get someplace, into some impossible future, in which I don’t already stand right now.
The Dirt: The Journey of a Mystic Cowboy, is available in softcover or eBook formats through Amazon.
You can purchase the book through this website. Or go straight to amazon at https://www.amazon.com/s?k=the+dirt+journey+of+a+mystic+cowboy&crid=1S40Q4BXSUWJ6&sprefix=the+dirt%3A+journey+of+a+m%2Caps%2C180&ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_23
You can read excerpts through this website.