The Non-Duality of a Hoof Print

When I walk through the forest and really see what is going on around me, then things change. Seeing the most perfect track in the mud, filtered from last night’s rain and heavy oppression, I gaze into the light step of deer and pick up the scent of beingness. I am unable to entertain any thoughts when something jolts me out of my current reality like this. All is pure and well-defined and the stag knows what he is doing and where he is going. Light step, yet deep enough to press into the mud up to his dew claws. I rest in the appreciation of his beauty and precision and try to follow his track leading away into the forest.

This post is probably not going to make much sense but it doesn’t really have to, not if you immerse yourself in the words and drink in the meanings behind them. Nothing really makes sense when is it delivered through the medium of words anyway. Poetry, now that is another matter, but plain old text? Nah. It is what stands behind the words that matters. The same goes for Tarot cards. They are just paper and print, nothing more, yet we can divine and chart a life by them if we understand how to read their lines and curves beyond first impressions.

Right now, this footprint exists yet the deer does not exist. It is all an assumption on my behalf – but the shape and the weight, the movement and the habit, the substrate and the possibility – all point to the fact that a deer passed through this patch of woods within the last 24 hours. I can make this conjecture because these marks were not there yesterday morning when I walked along this path. But the deer is not here now as I look into the mud and see two lines and two dots and say with great relish, the concept that has formed inside my head – ‘deer’.

I love the way the world works; I love the way my brain makes connections and I love the way I am able to fill the gaps in between very large chasms of space. I am in awe of this every time I see a glyph in the mud, a word on the page, a picture on a card, screen or advertising hoarding. Nothing exists, yet our brains make all these leaps, which surmise that they must exist. We create stories; we love making meaning out of chaos and nothing feels as good as being certain about the world around us.

Thoughts are not real; they are illusory. They do not exist in their own right, just the same way as two dents and two holes in the mud do not exist as ‘deer’. The problem is, we attach all this importance to our thoughts; they rule our lives, they rock our world and in some cases they cause our existential houses to come crumbling down around us, yet we still believe our thoughts are Real Things.

Tomorrow morning, I will be walking along the very same path that I walked along today and I will probably find that tonight’s thunderstorm has erased all traces of the hoof print from that patch of mud. And when the August heat finally arrives, the patch of mud will turn to dust and blow away.

Now where does that leave us?

I know that this does not make sense but believe me, the less importance we assign to our thoughts, the better because they are not the thing we should be concentrating upon. When that dust finally starts to blow away, it is up to us to notice how it leaves, up to us to be riding on it, feeling it scratching against our skin, sensing the air whipping up the particles and sending them back to where they came from. It is our job to be there with it right in that moment and nowhere else. We think our thoughts are as solid as hoof prints in the mud but we are wrong; they are more impermanent than we could ever imagine.

And when we understand this for the truth it is, we are at last able to see the stag within the deep forest turning back to us and nodding in accord.