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The Feeling

by Keith Purtell

photo of small trees in mist

photo by Keith Purtell

His awareness of the feeling was re-awakened during adolescence. Since that time he has tried to understand this quality of childhood consciousness that faded and was then re-introduced into his adult life. He wants to understand what it is, and he wants to know if he is the only one who feels the feeling.

The feeling is good. It does not possess the chemical potency of ordinary emotions, and it does not flood his body like anger, laughter, fear or desire. The feeling does not dull him like a drug, and, although his attention can easily be diverted from it, the feeling seems to carry the connotation of being part or even a manifestation of something powerful. It has an aura of association with grace.

What is the feeling of? What does it subscribe to? It is a feeling of being submerged in a place, of being connected with nature, of expanded reality. It is also a feeling of strange beauty.

It is significantly linked to weather and seasons. The feeling is most prevalent in fall, very strong in spring, then summer and finally winter. It has a spatial or psycho-visual quality; an internal sense of majesty, as if he has walked into an emotional cathedral belonging to a place or situation. It is always something he goes into and never something that emanates from an object. However, some objects have an important role.

The moon is an especially powerful component of the feeling. Its presence and its light evoke other-worldly beauty from trees, nightclouds, water, the wind itself. Ordinary natural objects are a potent presence in the feeling. Trees are towering sentinels; imbued with a resonant significance.

That is not to say that the feeling is more a part of the night than the day, only that he is less distracted at night, and that the mystery of darkness lends itself to an easy transition into the mystery of the feeling.

Sometimes his religious upbringing came to the forefront, and he pondered the non-personal presence, the spirituality and the magicality. Was he basking in the glory of God? If so, it was a god who did not speak directly to him or in a familiar language. He was not disappointed. It was a privilege to be here and witness such sublime visions. If he did not actually see the hand of the artist, so be it.

The feeling has nothing to do with the points of the compass and, in fact, is inhibited by thoughts of geographic direction. There is also no conventional sense of time. However, specific locations, especially outdoor places where nature thrives, seem to harbor the feeling in abundance. So he thinks of the feeling as a kind of place magic, or some essential part of nature.

Trees and pond

Photo by Keith Purtell

There are times when it requires conscious effort to achieve the feeling; and times when he finds the feeling as something streaming through a window. Then there are times when he is immersed in the feeling; when he walks inside it throughout the day. Those days are blessings.

He has tried — without much success — to analyze the feeling as a kind of brain activity. He wondered if it was a low-level activation of the imagination that did not involve daydreaming or fantasizing. That description had the believability of a good model, but it did not really have the ring of truth. The journalist in him weakly described the feeling as a particular kind of reverie linked to direct observation. He also considered the relative relationship between this feeling and other, conventional feelings. Anger is very far from the feeling. Fear, farther yet. Sadness is relatively close to the feeling. Joy is closer.

Despite the failure of a scientific approach, he has identified associated factors. Sound is part of the feeling, especially ambient animal sounds created by birds, insects and the wind. The cascading drone of cicadas and the songs of birds are both sources of the feeling. He immerses himself in their musings, their business of being godlike in tiny increments. Such meditation has not yielded an answer to the question: Do such sounds cause the feeling or are they only components? There are other such questions about flickering lightening bugs and scented summer evenings.

After returning from long passages of time without the feeling, he experiences the shock of recognition. Memories of childhood are usually either one and the same with the feeling, or largely a part of it. Thus the feeling holds a mythic or archetypal quality in childhood remembrance. The feeling there is pure, powerful and beautiful, undiminished except by the distance between events.

The feeling also holds an unusual power or quality in terms of its effect on memory. Often, when in the feeling, he perceives a fundamental connection between what he is looking at and something he has looked at long ago. Different places, different times, and yet the sensation of kinship is unmistakable. That in itself raises another question: Is the feeling forging relationships between experiences or revealing them? Whichever, the resonance across time introduces a sense of completion; a resolution of the unnatural distance between life events which have been pushed apart by the minor madness of everyday life as a human being.

Is the feeling transmitted by beauty? Or is it the response to beauty? Even more than an understanding of the feeling, he longs for a way to share it with others. Lacking appropriate words, he decides, for now, to settle for the kindness of a temperate fall wind and an open country road.


A misty rain fell on the city, bringing with it a cool breeze and reflecting back a mysterious glow that was once street lights. He walked through the fog and looked into the sky. What did the feeling bestow upon him? A sense of glory that beaconed; that invited him in. A sense that he was surrounded by a beautiful power. As he walked down streets, past quiet houses, he realized yet again what he had known as a boy, and somehow forgotten, that the night itself is a spirit.

Drunk on the glorious detail of nature, the majestic size of nature, the population of nature, the many numbers, the countless numbers of unfolded nature, blossoming and unfolding, alive and vibrant with myriad colors. And the sun-drenched shape of nature, as it is modeled by benevolent sunlight that reveals the beautiful shapes of nature embracing us and folding us, nurturing us, feeding us, encouraging us, supporting us, reassuring us. That's reassurance from nature.

Remember that childhood is a lifetime unto itself, where it's possible to experience rebirth and death, both, which then becomes forever. Let's emphasize that forever is a concept within a lifetime. If you've been a child, you've experienced the lifetime of a sentient thinking-feeling being. A being, an entity, a child.

The safety, peace and love of eternal time and universe is available to us now in meditation. But, we are often cut off from it by corporate culture or authoritarian systems.

Fragments by other authors:

seed pods at local park, by Keith Purtell
seed pods at local park, by Keith Purtell
Another way to consider this question is: “Is there a fundamental goodness within humans?” Or, on a more personal level, you might ask yourself: “Do I trust that there is a fundamental, intrinsic goodness in my own being?”

In using the word “good,” I'm pointing to the original meaning of the word, which derives its definition from an Indo-European root that has to do with togetherness or gathering together, signifying in a very simple way a sense of belonging. According to the Buddhist teachings, it is out of a sense of belonging that we experience harmony, aliveness, and love—all of which are central to walking a spiritual path.

Yet, if you can begin to sense that your identity is much larger than your small egoic self, you can begin to have confidence in that basic goodness, and learn to recognize your intimate belonging—to the web of aliveness, love, and awareness itself. This doesn't mean that you need to deny your personality, or the different tendencies you have; it just means that you can begin to trust that intuitive part of yourself that knows yourself as part of something larger.

For instance, when we're living out of a very egoic stance, when we're really caught up in feeling separate and afraid, we don't trust that others will care, understand, or want to cooperate, and we get defensive. The problem is, the more we mistrust, the more we invest our energy into producing walls and weapons.

Now, translate “universe” to us. We are an expression of the universe. If we decide to trust in our goodness, then we will use our own personal resources to begin to understand our workings, along with what motivates us. And what are the tools for this understanding? Meditative presence. By pausing and deepening our attention, we come home to the awareness and love which express our deepest Being. This is the realization that brings our trust into full bloom, and allows us to live from it.

But if we decide that the universe is a friendly place, then we will use our technology, our scientific discoveries and our natural resources to create tools and models for understanding that universe. Because power and safety will come through understanding its workings and its motives.
—Tara Brach, "Is this Universe a Friendly Place?"­is-this-universe-a-friendly-place-2/?cn-reloaded=1

pecan tree catkins, by Keith Purtell
pecan tree catkins, by Keith Purtell
Life seems to have succeeded in this by dint of humility, by making itself very small and very insinuating, bending to physical and chemical forces, consenting even to go a part of the way with them, like the switch that adopts for a while the direction of the rail it is endeavoring to leave. Of phenomena in the simplest forms of life, it is hard to say whether they are still physical and chemical or whether they are already vital. Life had to enter thus into the habits of inert matter, in order to draw it little by little, magnetized, as it were, to another track.

The animate forms that first appeared were therefore of extreme simplicity. They were probably tiny masses of scarcely differentiated protoplasm, outwardly resembling the amoeba observable to-day, but possessed of the tremendous internal push that was to raise them even to the highest forms of life. That in virtue of this push the first organisms sought to grow as much as possible, seems likely.

But organized matter has a limit of expansion that is very quickly reached; beyond a certain point it divides instead of growing. Ages of effort and prodigies of subtlety were probably necessary for life to get past this new obstacle. It succeeded in inducing an increasing number of elements, ready to divide, to remain united. By the division of labor it knotted between them an indissoluble bond. The complex and quasi-discontinuous organism is thus made to function as would a continuous living mass which had simply grown bigger.

But the real and profound causes of division were those which life bore within its bosom. For life is tendency, and the essence of a tendency is to develop in the form of a sheaf, creating, by its very growth, divergent directions among which its impetus is divided. This we observe in ourselves, in the evolution of that special tendency which we call our character. Each of us, glancing back over his history, will find that his child-personality, though indivisible, united in itself divers persons, which could remain blended just because they were in their nascent state: this indecision, so charged with promise, is one of the greatest charms of childhood.
—Henri Bergson, 1907, "Creative Evolution, Chapter II"

clouds in the northeast/Tulsa, by Keith Purtell
clouds in the northeast/Tulsa, by Keith Purtell
O there is blessing in this gentle breeze,
A visitant that while it fans my cheek
Doth seem half-conscious of the joy it brings
From the green fields, and from yon azure sky.
Whate'er its mission, the soft breeze can come
To none more grateful than to me; escaped
From the vast city, where I long had pined
A discontented sojourner: now free,
Free as a bird to settle where I will.
What dwelling shall receive me? in what vale
Shall be my harbour? underneath what grove
Shall I take up my home? and what clear stream
Shall with its murmur lull me into rest?
The earth is all before me. With a heart
Joyous, nor scared at its own liberty,
I look about; and should the chosen guide
Be nothing better than a wandering cloud,
I cannot miss my way. I breathe again!
Trances of thought and mountings of the mind
Come fast upon me: it is shaken off,
That burthen of my own unnatural self,
The heavy weight of many a weary day
Not mine, and such as were not made for me.
Long months of peace (if such bold word accord
With any promises of human life),
Long months of ease and undisturbed delight
Are mine in prospect; whither shall I turn,
By road or pathway, or through trackless field,
Up hill or down, or shall some floating thing
Upon the river point me out my course?
Dear Liberty! Yet what would it avail
But for a gift that consecrates the joy?
For I, methought, while the sweet breath of heaven
Was blowing on my body, felt within
A correspondent breeze, that gently moved
With quickening virtue, but is now become
A tempest, a redundant energy,
Vexing its own creation. Thanks to both,
And their congenial powers, that, while they join...
— , William Wordsworth, 1850, "The Prelude"­viscomi/coursepack/wordsworth/­Wordsworth-Prelude.html

fence and branches, by Keith Purtell
fence and branches, by Keith Purtell
It is pleasant, as you are cutting a path through a swamp, to see the color of the different woods, the yellowish dogwood, the green prinos (?), and on the upland, the splendid yellow barberry.... You cannot go out so early but you will find the track of some wild creature.

Returning home just after the sun had sunk below the horizon, I saw from N. Barrett's a fire made by boys on the ice near the Red bridge which looked like the bright reflection of the setting sun from the water under the bridge, so clear, so little lurid in this winter evening.

Dec. 22, 1858. p. m. To Walden. I see in the cut near the shanty site quite a flock of Fringilla hyemalis and goldfinches together on the snow and weeds and ground. Hear the well-known mew and watery twitter of the last, and the drier "chill chill" of the former. These burning yellow birds, with a little black and white in their coat flaps, look warm above the snow. There may be thirty goldfinches, very brisk and pretty tame. They hang, head downwards, on the weeds. I hear of their coming to pick sunflower seeds in Melvin's garden these days.

Dec. 22, 1859. Another fine winter day.—p. m. To Flint's Pond.... We pause and gaze into the Mill brook on the Turnpike bridge. I see a good deal of cress there on the bottom for a rod or two, the only green thing to be seen.... Is not this the plant which most, or most conspicuously, preserves its greenness in the winter? . . . It is as green as ever, and waving in the stream as in summer.

How nicely is Nature adjusted. The least disturbance of her equilibrium is betrayed and corrects itself. As I looked down on the surface of the brook, I was surprised to see a leaf floating, as I thought, up stream, but I was mistaken. The motion of a particle of dust on the surface of any brook far inland shows which way the earth declines toward the sea, which way lies the constantly descending route, and the only one.
—Henry David Thoreau, 1888, "Winter"­wiki/Winter_­(1888)_Thoreau/Winter ­and­59031/59031-h/59031-h.htm