The Human Flowering Response: cultivating the Soma within
Evolution and soma
The human flowering response is a way to understand how we transform ourselves into agents of divinely-inspired creativity. It describes our shift to a higher vibration, our birth into the life of spirit, and how this process is shared with other life forms, with our ancestors. While the images draw from our vegetative heritage, its ‘physics’ unfurl from the common origin and destiny of all the tribes of creation, for we are, ultimately, all One on the great journey of Life. In this way, we can understand planetary evolution as the life of a single multi-species being that has grown to encompass the earth, and is now tentatively extending out into space.
What is soma?
Long ago, when humanity embarked on the journey of separation from the family of creation necessary for our self-awareness to develop, Nature in her great beneficence provided guidance for the return home. Among these guides, or healers, are an especially wise tribe within the kin-dom of plants, or fungi, known archetypically as soma. The term is Sanskrit, and its role is recounted in the Rg-Vedas, among the oldest of the spiritual literature extant on the planet. Soma is the Holy plant, or fungus, which acts as a vehicle of spiritual illumination, and is considered to have awakened humanity to our divine nature, and the rules of the game on this planet. What species, or amalgam of species, soma actually was, is to me less important than what it represents: a bridge to higher consciousness offered to us by the natural world. Such bridges have led to the founding of many spiritual traditions, and continue to offer safe passage for our lives.
For the purposes of self-cultivation, we can understand soma as less an external intelligence ‘telling’, or ‘teaching’ us anything, and more an aspect of ourselves in external plant (or fungus) form that reveals and awakens our internal soma, our own guidance, from its sleep of forgetfulness, thus activating our evolutionary heritage. Our job then becomes to stay awake, to develop this soma-tic intelligence, to re-member our abilities to think and act like a responsible, evolving ecosystem. This so that we no longer need the help of the external soma, or can graduate to more advanced lessons.
Structurally, humans are plant-like in a number of ways. Our circulatory and nervous systems radiate from our heart and spine like the roots and branches of a tree, our lungs are shaped like leaves and share the same role of respiration, our brain appears as a big bud of marrow rising out of the spinal column, and our hemoglobin is nearly identical to chlorophyll, differing by the molecular exchange of magnesium for iron. Our energy bodies can be similarly understood. For example, the spine is analogous to a stalk upon which are found chakras, subtle vortexes of energy in vertical alignment in the body. These are traditionally understood as lotus flowers that open in response to various stages of our spiritual development.
Said another way, just as God can be understood to be (commonly) unrealized within each of us, so all creation exists as potential within us, and within all creation lies the potential of the human being. More specifically, plants contain the potential of humans, and humans contain the potential of plants. When we raise our awareness to the point where we become consciously co-creative with the planet and its evolutionary processes, we bring these potentials to the surface. This allows deeper purposes of self-fulfillment to be realized across all life forms, and unleashes a new order of creativity upon the earth. In this way the planet moves to higher octaves of life; in this way Gaia dreams herself into the next phase of her story, of our story.
Such signatures allow us to understand ourselves as big succulents who have lost our roots, literally, and often otherwise. Though we are fleshy, prone to vocalizing, and flopping about upon the earth’s surface, we are still plants in our deep design, and are genetically and energetically disposed to follow the same growth patterns as the vegetative world. These traits allow us to look towards the world of plants, its life processes, cycles, and seasonal changes, to gain insight into the forms, functions, and futures we both share.
Plant development – the three stages
Plants – and we are speaking very generally of that glowing edge of the kin-dom known as the flowering plants – can be understood to go through three phases in their life cycle. Each phase, archetypically (and esoterically), comprises a great ‘breath’ of absorption, assimilation, and release.
With an inhalation, life force condenses into the seed, which eventually bursts into an exhalation of germination. This outbreath begins a growth process, and the plant rises and extends, branches and grows leaves. It reaches a certain progression of maturity, an adulthood, which completes what we will call stage I of its life. At this point, having achieved a respectable and operative physical presence in the world, it lessens the attention given to growing physically larger and turns instead towards drawing in the ambient vitality around it to effect a higher frequency, to raise its vibration. And so begins stage II.
In stage II the inhalation of life force is maximized. This engages the plant in a long extended vegetative pleasure principle, fed (and often interrupted) by sun, fog, rain, or drought; by rich or poor soils; still air, breezes, or strong winds; the rhythm of light and dark; the attention of other plants and animals. This is experienced as a nourishment ‘high’, a feedback which urges the plant to continue vitalizing. Eventually the synergy of the forces it attracts possesses the plant with a unitive experience, an emergence into greater wholeness. This process precipitates into the formation of a flower bud, a reincarnation of the plant in a subtler form.
The exhalation begins when the vitality builds up to a point where it becomes more than can be contained, and that which has been absorbed now overflows and ascends into blossoming. This is a (relatively) rapid movement upward and outward, a flowering ‘orgasm’. Flowers, with their radiant colors, delicacy, fragrance, and intricacy of form, are the geometries and intentions of higher frequencies exposed and made transparent by the sexual power of creation.
Stage III begins as an inbreath. This creates the ovary of the flower, and the vitality is condensed into a seed. There the flowered plant essentializes itself, and invests the lessons of its life in hereditary coding, instructions for the next generation on how to best live and adapt to its surroundings. With an outbreath the elements of the plant’s life are transformed into its means of dissemination, and a gift to the world, the fruit. This reciprocation completes the circle, and with it the plant fulfills its structural destiny.
The human flowering response –stage I
The human story can be mapped onto this cycle, as we are designed for the same process. An inbreath of life sparks us into existence as an embryo. Thru an outbreath we grow and reach a physical adulthood, which generally completes stage I. At this point, if our natural inclination to commune with our body, with the world, with vital force, is allowed expression, we begin to catalyze into stage II.
However, we more commonly stay in and around stage I for the duration of our lives, because we think stage I is it. We do not – at least in the ‘official’ dissociative mythos of modernity – recognize anything beyond, and it is in the interest of those who control this mythos and receive the (apparent) benefits from it, that we do not. Why? Because to the extent we do not engage in the vitality practices, the communions leading into stage II, we are disempowered, dispirited. We are cut off from our roots, and so from the nourishment that Nature provides to feed and guide us thru our life, to bring us home to Ourselves.
When we are disconnected from the balancing and expansive qualities of spirit, when we are bereft of the awareness of the formative role it plays in our self-development, then the ego acts out its contractive (separative) nature unimpeded. On a collective scale, this plays itself out in the rise and fall of civilizations, alternating seasons of hubris and collapse. In an ego-based culture one is easily hypnotized by the social conditionings of separation, wrapped into pleasure-button pushing addictions, engaged in the play of countless status games to shore up the forever crumbling illusion of control, trying to keep it together a little more and a little longer than the next person, and constantly distracting oneself from seeing, and feeling, what is really happening. Such strategies inevitably give rise to societies controlled by ‘fear pimps’, whose job is the business of fear, to convince you it is better to live by what you fear than by what you love, and often sell you things that support that notion, such as insurance policies, car alarms, weight loss products, and preemptive wars.
The unhappiness that attends living in fear is actually the key to the way out. A poison creates its own antidote. Unhappiness points to areas where the human spirit is frustrated, is starving by inaction or distortion on the vitality front. If one rationalizes, ignores, numbs, or suppresses that unhappiness, one leads a life of falsehoods until the spirit ‘speaks’ its complaints via sickness, the sufferings of an unpleasant life, and a likely early physical death.
Because the urge to vitalize is feeling mediated, to the extent one engages in it, one feels good, or at least feels on track. To feel good is a feedback that develops and refines itself as one progresses thru the stages. It is Nature’s way of pointing you in the right direction. Hence the compass-like importance of the ecstatic body.
Our embodied drive to vitalize originates in the tap root that feeds sexual reproduction, and radiates from there into various forms and transformations. In modernity, the vitality impulse is unevenly suppressed, or distorted, often getting little further than the ‘bad boy/girl’ trinity of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. These, in their more degenerative forms (e.g. pornography, street drugs, pop hooks and negative music genres), are powerful avoidance strategies that function as pleasure distractions, addictions, and stress releasers. Compare them to the vitality baselines from which they are birthed (sexuality, the urge to alter/restore consciousness, and music) to where it could go if developed as a spiritual practice (e.g., tantric sexuality, the use of Teacher plants (soma), and devotional music).
In order to spiritually mature, we need to think for ourselves, and take responsibility for our lives. If we do not, we live in states of denial and become given over to a life of continual stress. Stress and tension disrupt the flow and balance of our vital energies and interfere with the genetic signals that trigger our higher evolutionary functions. We then seek satisfaction in false vitalities, in the mirages of pleasure offered by the biochemistry of stress, the adrenaline highs. These include the lower emotion dramas of irresponsible anger and irrational fear; the neediness of co-dependent relationships; the release of loveless sex; the taking of drugs that are quick to bring you up and quick to put you down; and the bombarding of numbed senses to get any kind of stimulation (the ‘Las Vegas effect’).
As these never satisfy, they are repeated endlessly, wearing ever deeper grooves of compulsion and craving. The personal power that our vital force was meant to give us drains away. Much of world history is the story of the human vitality drive routed by various customs, morals, and laws into loops that keep people within the artificial confines of stage I. Like rings in the noses of cattle, these become addictions, breakdowns in volitional responsibility, proof that the masses cannot control themselves and need handlers (their moral superiors) to run their lives for them. The masses become controlled by those who control the means and marketing of addictions, and the ideologies and attitudes of disempowerment they justify. These are the strings by which citizen puppet is jerked this way and that.
It is little wonder that those who feel trapped in stage I often respond to their situation thru self-medication. This impulse can move down two pathways, that of escape (of numbing, or indulging), or breakthru. If escape, there are plenty of drugs to choose from. I am defining drugs in the broader sense as anything that is used to avoid the reality of one’s life circumstance and the responsibility for changing it, anything that engenders unconscious, addictive behaviors. We use drugs to ameliorate the deadening effect of a culture that suppresses the evolutionary unfoldment of humanity. We use them to stimulate the chemicals that would be developed by natural bodily processes of consciousness expansion, if culture had encouraged and facilitated such developments. However, as these strategies are unsustainable, there will be a breakdown, followed, in this existence or another, by a breakthru. It comes down to how hard or easy you want to make the process.
Some things are easier to use in the way of drugs, such as T.V., credit cards, pharmaceuticals, junk foods, and so on. Some are more difficult, such as the many Teacher plants or fungi that know how to defend themselves from abuse. Try escaping with ayahuasca or psilocybe and you’ll most likely find yourself in a head-on collision with yourself. Out of the wreckage you may find some glimmering soul glyphs that point to the way out of Stage 1. You may breakthru to your own internal soma, the evolutionary wisdom we all carry that urges us towards the flowering of our consciousness. Many things, many ‘medicines’, and many drugs turned into medicines, may effect one’s awakening to stage II life. These include personal and cultural disasters, illness, grief, astute assessment of the world situation, literature, music, immersion in other cultures, meditation, associations with awakened people, the garden path, or simply grace. By whatever works, you’ll get there sooner or later.
Stage II begins when we shift the focus of growth from our physical self (assuming adulthood has been reached) to our vital, or energetic self. Much as the plant dies to its former self and is reborn as the flower, we can die to our stage I self and be reborn as a being that consciously inheres in the life current, and ultimately, the heart. Cultivating this inner being can be understood as sprouting, nourishing, and flowering the plant, or soma within. In the physiological alchemy tradition of Taoism this is called ‘using the false body to cultivate the real’. It is based on the understanding that our evolutionary heritage becomes conscious within us when we attune ourselves to the subtleties of our feeling body, to the signature frequencies of the tribes of creation that weave thru our DNA, give function to our organs, strength to our bones, texture to our personalities, and future to our existence.
Attunement comes from engaging our survival functions, our eating, breathing, speaking, moving, thinking, feeling, and so on, into a dialogue with the life current. We thereby take ourselves out of sole identification with the physical body and its stage 1 concerns and dramas, and into a life lived as an energy body. The energetic nature of the world, its subtleties, resonance patterns (correspondences), yin / yang dynamics, can then be sensed running as a pulse beneath materialized form. Things that were previously mysterious thru sole reliance on the rational mind, the intellect, become clear, felt, and actual. These include many of the healing arts and energy sciences, such as acupuncture, laying on of hands, medical intuitions, sound healing, biodynamic farming, astrology, dowsing, and flower essences.
A way of life, a vitality culture, develops to maintain and deepen this attunement. We come to appreciate living foods, not only for nourishing our bodies, but for nourishing our lives as we (ideally) respectfully and mindfully cultivate, gather, prepare, and share them. We seek clean fresh air and water and learn to breath and drink deeply and fully. We become conscious of language, and how what we say affects the reality we live, and the tone and clarity of our voice changes the field of vibration within and around us. We learn to move in ways that minimize forceful muscle exertion and maximize efficient flow of awareness, vitality, and fluids thru our body. Our intelligence grows with an appetite for the paradoxes revealed as we move past duality into more encompassing perspectives. Nuances of the psyche, our moods, emotions, curiosities, memories, and motivations, are felt as strings to be played on the instrument of our being, and we learn to compose ourselves in the key of ecstasy. We gravitate towards the devotional arts and services, and begin to live the feedback between well-being and ever deepening self-awareness.
In such ways one rises to meet the challenges and receive the pleasures of the evolution Game. The archetypal inbreath of this higher vibrational nourishment creates an environment, a springtime, which stimulates latent forces in us. Our Creation-body awakens, which holds the history and promise of the planet in the microcosm of our individual existence. The season warms, en-lightens, and fertilizes a divine seed and signals it to sprout (though sometimes it takes a crisis to shatter the protective casing, much like fire-germinated seeds). Many traditions locate this seed, or spirit embryo in the lower abdomen, the Japanese hara, Chinese lower dan tien (elixir field), Hindu abdominal bandu, or Norse and Celtic ‘lower well’, and advocate deep, umbilical breathing from this part of the body to help give it life.
With an archetypal outbreath, the plant within, the soma, begins to expand, to grow. Our participation in its growth gives us lessons on the energetic play of creation. For example, we learn the importance of marrying the polarities of heaven and earth, to sink like water and rise like fire. The yin, or descending nature of the soma within drops roots to the ground, much like relaxing one’s weight while practicing tai chi chuan to develop root thru the ‘bubbling well’ in the sole of each foot. The yang, or ascending nature is felt as buoyancy of awareness, as a rising towards the radiances calling us from above. When we attend to our polarities, we conduct a strong fiber of spirit, one that allows us graceful verticality and skillful passage thru life.
As the soma within grows, it may encounter areas of toxicity, or patches of sterility in the substrate, or soil of one’s body-mind. By living the soma’s experience of the devitalizing effects of these lifestyle choices, or of deeper energy blocks and dysfunctions stemming from old traumas, karmas, and ancestral issues, one is brought to more direct awareness of them. Numbed or unpleasant feelings and their counterparts in illness are pushed to the surface to be cleared as the soma works to condition its soil. These can appear as discomfort, nausea, dis-ease, emotional agitations, realizations of all kinds, and visions. To have faith in these ways, one must often hold space for things to get worse before they get better.
To be cleared, such disturbances must be felt and followed to their source. No matter how painful the root trauma, no matter how distasteful the emotions associated with it, it must, eventually, all be embraced, all judgments released, and all parties forgiven. Not easy! However, this releases life force that is tied up in knots of suffering and negative pleasures, and restores it back to its original free-flowing presence in the body-mind. This becomes a kind of compost, providing additional life force for the soil of one’s being, and allows the soma within to grow well and flourish.
By living out this fertilization process we experience the evolving states of vitality sought by the soma. We become healthier and grow in spiritual strength. This advances our conception of how good it is possible to feel (or even how good it is permissible to feel), and opens us to accommodate more . . and more. The experience of bliss teaches that it cannot be sought outside of self-understanding, that the peace that passeth all understanding comes of letting go of all that stands in the way of it. This is a concept, an aesthetic, much beyond the Puritan-style denial of pleasure (other than that gotten thru the commerce of conquering), that justify a lifetime of stage I existence. It is also a step past the pleasure seeking and pain avoidance strategies of hedonism common to the borderlands between stage I and II.
Thru increased attunement to our soma within and the world it inhabits, by feeling the qualities of its growth, we learn to create the climate and weather patterns that best propagate it. We learn that the more we delaminate from a mind-ruled sense of self, the more our emotions can flow clean and clear to circulate and balance the energies that pass thru our lives. We learn to manage our life current, to know how best to allow the thunder of our being to resound, the lightening of passions to strike, the rain of tears to fall, the winds of forgiveness to blow, the morning dew of laughter to sparkle, and the rainbow of dreams to color us with vibrancy and purpose. Most important, we come to know that the sunlight of life must shine.
‘There is a light that shines beyond all things on earth, beyond the highest, the very highest heavens. This is the light that shines in your heart’ ~ Chandogya Upanishad
Our heart is the internal sun. As we continue to bathe ourselves in the higher frequencies of our Stage II life, the light of the heart, the love of life, shines brighter. When we surrender ourselves to this radiance, the impulse of self-transformation carried thru the element lineages, thru such beings as crystals, flowers, butterflies, and birds, activates itself and upwells thru the heart.
A deepening longing to return home to the Light accelerates the outbreath, until the vitality overflows and carries us into a full-bodied, ecstatic ascension. As we rise to the inner sky of our being, we recognize ourselves in the compassionate face of this most shining star. The remembrance begins a spontaneous transmutation, and with it a shift to an inbreath, which surrenders our energy body, and all its subtle mind identifications, into our original nature of divine presence. So we are again reincarnated, this time becoming a bud of presence which can only say yes to the world, that lives a love which, ‘bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things’. This bud then unfolds in an outbreath of agape, of bhakti, of metta, of feeling to infinity. This is how vitality culture becomes spiritual culture, this is the human flowering response.
The love that suffuses our body in this way changes everything it touches. Just as plants metamorphose light into life, so humans metamorphize life into love. The great diversity of beings brought forth by the external sun, all that has lived on the earth, all of our ancestors, can now release their story, their journey of creation, in surrender to the gravity of Union. We ourselves, inseparable from our heritage, are then consciously aware of the entire repertoire of the evolution theatre performed on this planet, and the ‘workshop’ of Nature from which the players and dramas arose.
With all this comes the understanding that humans evolved as vehicles for plants, for all of the tribes of creation, to realize their origin, to come home to themselves in the light of the Divine. In this way the world awakens, Christ returns, the Mahatma arises, in the heart of each human who awakens to their divine nature. In this way humans bud from the earth and flower as co-creator Gods and Goddesses. The as yet unimagined possibilities of the flowering human, the power of the whole becoming conscious of itself, signals a leap in planetary evolution.
‘Be not discouraged, keep on, there are divine things well envelop’d. I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell’ ~ Walt Whitman
‘Some day after we have mastered the winds, the waves and gravity, we will harness for God the energies of love; and then for a second time in the history of the world, humans will have discovered fire.’ ~ Teilhard de Chardin
With an inbreath, we gather the essence of our life to pass on to progeny, student, apprentice, society, and so on. Much like the proverbial life passing before one’s eyes on the eve of death, the past comes forward at seeding times to be integrated, organized, synthesized, and transmitted. We thus seed things into being as extensions of ourselves, often as lessons to others on how to best adapt to the world, or, how to adapt the world to us. It may be to bring an embryo to life, raise children, formulate an invention, give hard earned advice, teach a trade, write a book, found, elaborate on, or end a tradition, or even live a life that serves as an example to others of what not to do with their lives. Acts of seeding honor the cyclic nature of life. They are necessary for the world to continue, and is how we continue after death in altered forms, such as thru our genetic offspring, our creative acts contributing to the evolution of culture, our vibrational imprints on the evolution of the planet), and our physical body returning to the elements. To seed is to go beyond ourselves, and acknowledge generations before and after us.
While seeding has an instinctual, obligatory character to it, born of the visceral need for survival of the family, society, and species, fruiting has a more generous, voluntary, and gifting quality to it. The outbreath of fruiting is the completion of the cycle, often motivated by the enormous realization of what a gift life is, what a blessing it is to have the opportunity to incarnate as a human, to live on this magical, stunningly beautiful, and prodigiously fertile planet, with all these other amazing beings! Much like a watermelon plant has no need to expend all that energy to make such quantities of luscious fruit just for simple seed dispersal, many humans are moved by their gratitude to Life to devote themselves to selfless service, to expend their energy on the fruits of their flowering.
Compassion for the world grows fruits of divine sweetness, which nourish the spirit, and feeds those that give, as well as those that partake. We find this spiritual force at work in such luminaries as madre Teresa, renowned for her unflagging energy in assisting the downtrodden of India, Francis of Assisi, and his sustaining faith, Martin Luther King Jr. and his tireless activism, and Amma, the ‘hugging saint’, who can embrace thousands during a darshan gathering, and be wholly present for them all, from the first to the last. In everyday life we offer fruits when we right a wrong, forgive a misdeed, see the best in other people, and commit random acts of love and kindness. Such gestures keep us humble, sweetens our disposition, and ripens our lives.
While it is our structural destiny as a species to flower, this is as yet happening in only a small number of humans. However, the planet-wide ecological crisis is signaling that it is time for this destiny to manifest thru the human collective as quickly, and with as many of us, as possible. There are, fortunately for us, many forces at work to help make this happen. The planetary frequency shift is sifting the toxins from the nectars, releasing spiritual pollens that attract all manner of beings, come to engage their own evolution with this great transition. Many work thru our hearts when we open to the growing pains of ourselves, of the world, and help us release our trauma identities, and surrender to the harmonic of flowering. They likewise attend and inspire the fruits of our work to effect and stabilize a culture come home to the family of Creation.
The flowering impulse, with its subsequent seeding and fruiting, moves in various forms, ways, and levels of engagement thru-out humanity. In a neutral sense, the flowering impulse is simply the characteristic of all organisms to grow and learn. How you choose to work the process (or not) defines how your flowering progresses. The norm of stage I culture is to be relatively passive in the process (e.g., health commonly defined as a state of ‘no symptoms’, rather than a pro-active work-in-progress), which usually doesn’t get you much beyond acceptable functionality in your daily life. When the process is entered into, if often becomes distorted, or a shadow of what it could be. To become very skilled in lying, in self-flagellation, in making a lot of $ at the expense of others, or in torturing your spouse, are all forms of aberrated flowering. To live your life to please others and not yourself, to take your cultural script as unquestioned truth and avoid the responsibility of thinking for yourself, to be a dilettante of talk and no walk, to constantly say no to life and expect the worse from people, are all ways of nipping your flowering process in the bud.
As goes the flower, so goes the seed and fruit. To this end, it is wise to create a nonjudgmental space for your flowering, one affirmed by organic metaphors and worldviews. Everything, every person has his or her own rate of development, is in his or her own phase of development. No judgment in this, only discernment. In service to discernment, we can remember that in the Aramaic of Jesus, the word for ‘good’ meant ‘ripe’ and the word for ‘evil’, ‘unripe.’ To blossom ourselves beneath the sunlight of our opening heart is our task in this world, and for this the time is ripe! To this beginning, I offer this prayer.
The Blossoming Prayer
May I be in peace
May we all be in peace
May I be well, in body, mind, and spirit
May we all be well in body, mind, and spirit
May my heart be open, fully giving and receiving
My all our hearts be open, fully giving and receiving
And may I be aware of the beauty of my own true nature,
And may we all be aware of the beauty of our own true natures
For ours is the power and glory of heaven as earth
A blossoming together, forever and ever