The Bear-ings of Truth

There is something about looking up at a night sky that swiftly kills thoughts and moves one into a place that feels familiar yet mysterious, peaceful yet bubbling – where nothing and everything merge into one.

It took me years to realize this is somewhere I have visited many times – as a child in play, in listening to music, in making art, in nature, in contemplation of spiritual teachings, in meditation… And it took me many more years to understand that I am not a visitor to this place. I am this “place”. And somehow, gazing into the vastness of the universe, I am reflected back to my Self. As Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj once said:

There is a vastness beyond the farthest reaches of the mind. That vastness is my home; that vastness is myself. And that vastness is also love. 

It is easy to say this with hindsight of course, but when the willingness to awaken increases to a certain level, all of a sudden you recognize the whole universe as a pointer to Truth, a mirror for the Self. And you realize that every song you ever heard was talking of God, every word spoken to you was pointing to back to your Self, every event in your life was simply a garden gate to your home waiting to be walked through, and every being you ever encountered was the Friend.

The most popular constellation we teach our children in the Northern Hemisphere is Ursa Major, the Great Bear – or in its decreased form, the Big Dipper. I ran a small survey on Twitter and 75% of people said this was the first group of stars they ever got to know. (Although very few of us could name the brightest stars individually).

It was with such joy that I discovered recently that this constellation, and its partnering constellation (Ursa Minor, the Little Bear or Little Dipper) – are a symbol for the Mind as it seeks to awaken. The teaching was there above us all along.

Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, the Big and the Small Dipper

Polaris (our current Pole Star) has long represented The Unchanging Self, the Divine Self, the Beloved, God, Truth. And Ursa Major and Ursa Minor rotate around the Pole Star throughout the year.

According to author Oral E. Scott, the mother/father bear represents the objective mind.  With maturity and mind control training and purification comes understanding and wisdom – represented by the large stature of the bear. But while this mature bear/refined mind points to Truth (as its stars point to the Pole Star), this mind/bear will never touch Truth/the Pole Star. We have to move beyond reasoning and the mind…

So when we are mature enough, our minds are then ready to become like the baby bear – open to not knowing, “being” rather than doing, and shifting into the subjective mind of intuition and being guided from within.  For it is Ursa Minor that indeed touches the Pole Star – it is at the very tip of its tail. By turning our awareness back upon itself we have the opportunity to finally behold the Truth that lies within.

And eventually, to stop spinning, to dissolve into Truth alone and become the Pole Star, we have to let go of even the child like one that is searching within.

Tiny Crab, Big Story…

Cancer

It’s amazing how a small crab with a walk-on role in Greek mythology is such a fixture in our daily life today…

The constellation Cancer (Latin for crab) is one of the most modest in the sky. It has no particularly bright stars, and its only claim to fame is that it belongs to the zodiac, and contains the beautiful M44 open cluster — The Beehive. But back 2000-odd years ago it was a different story.

When the Sun reached its summer solstice (its most Northern position in the sky), the constellation it happened to be in front of was none other than Cancer. It was a big deal… For Mesopotamians, it marked the gateway for the descent of souls into incarnation.

That positioning of Cancer also gave rise to what we know today to be the Tropic of Cancer — the imaginary line we draw to depict latitude, also known as the Northern Tropic.

Even though, as a result of precession, the Sun’s most northerly position has now moved westwards between Gemini and Taurus, the name has stuck.But how did such a tiny crab find its way up into the sky in the first place?

In Greek mythology, Hera, the wife of Zeus, vowed to kill Heracles — the son of a mortal woman, and sadly also the son of philandering Zeus.  In a fit of jealous rage she made Heracles insane, and in his insanity he killed wife and children. Guilt-ridden, poor Heracles consulted the oracle of Delphi for advice on how he could make up for his actions. The penance it was determined would be set by Heracles own cousin, Eurystheus. And so Eurystheus set Heracles 12 impossible tasks to complete called the 12 Labors of Heracles — the second of which was to slay Hydra, a serpentine water monster.

Still full of jealousy, Hera sought to distract Heracles during his battle by sending a crab to nip on his toe. But the tiny crab was no match for Heracles who crushed it beneath his foot. While it may have been just a brief appearance for our crab, Hera rewarded him for his efforts by placing him among the stars and he’s been there ever since.