Photography by Tom Youngholm — Bryce Canyon
A collection of thought-provoking and inspirational writings
by Tom Youngholm
Reflecting all that fell into its sight, the deep, clear pond captured the rich blue sky, billowy clouds, emerald-green trees, and a tiny portion of Mount Shasta. With no one around for miles, I contemplated what had brought me to this place.
When I was younger you would’ve never seen me pick up or even read a book like this, never mind write a story for one. I was a “guy” and proud to be of the logical, rational, and practical persuasion. Several years ago, though, I began to experience mystical events that changed my perception of the world. But like a morning fog that gradually dissipates with the rising of the sun, the impact of those mystical events slowly faded with the onslaught of everyday realities.
Then over a period of a few months I experienced being with my mother, who was struggling painfully with breast and lung cancer. I was also laid-off, or should I put it in the corporate vernacular, “downsized,” or is it “right-sized”? After my mother’s death, I took a much-needed vacation. Not knowing where I wanted to go, I just packed my car and headed north on Highway 101. Two days later when I saw the magnificence of Mount Shasta topped with snow; I decided to camp out at its base. It was a beautiful place with deer roaming the campground every morning and evening. The trees, with their expansive reach toward the limitless sky and their roots driven deep into the earth, enveloped me with comfort.
The next day a man told me about a special place where I could see actual drawings, petroglyphs, from hundreds, maybe thousands of years ago. He scribbled a map onto a used napkin and insisted that I go. Following the child-like treasure map, I drove south on Interstate 5 and exited at the Railroad Museum. Heading up a hill, I turned left at a fork in the road and proceeded a half-mile before parking my car. Hiking down a steep narrow trail that dropped precariously into a small valley, I was to listen for running water. When the small stream became visible, I was to look for three huge granite boulders where the petroglyphs were etched. Miraculously, I found them and was indeed thoroughly intrigued. My mind filled with all kinds of possibilities about their meanings, their origins, their creators.
So there I was on a hot afternoon, by myself, sitting on a long, flat slab of granite. I gazed upstream and watched how the melted snow squeezed between boulders and earth and tumbled over rocks. At my feet, the stream formed a tiny but deep pond before it narrowed, once again, continuing its journey toward the ocean.
Sitting cross-legged on the smooth boulder, I stared out over the clear pond. All of a sudden I heard a buzzing by my head as a thin, blue stick with wings flew haphazardly around me. The dragonfly flitted in front of my face and then landed on the knuckle of my left thumb. I was dumfounded and astonished by the boldness of this creature.
The dragonfly momentarily dashed off to the edge of the pond and then flew back landing on the exact same spot of my thumb. The silent exchange lasted only a few minutes but it seemed like a lifetime. I felt as if I’d been “touched.” I can’t explain what that really means, except to say that I felt intrinsically connected with this beautiful insect. As silly as it sounds, it was the deepest connection I’d ever felt with anyone or anything. That remembrance, though, stimulated my previous feelings of disconnection and loneliness. With no job, no intimate relationship, and both my parents dead, I felt engulfed by life’s hard realities.
When the dragonfly flew away, questions flooded its absence. How had I allowed my previous mystical experiences to escape me? How had I lost my sense of Spirit? Why hadn’t I focused on staying connected with nature, with myself, with others? As the winged-creature flew by once again, I heard a gentle answer to my questions, “Because you have allowed life’s “illusions” to fill your awareness, your consciousness.” The soft voice had resonated from a room somewhere deep within me, a room that had just been opened by the touch of that dragonfly. As I allowed my thoughts and experiences to sift through me, I reminded myself that it was always my choice where I focused my awareness.
The sun slid out from behind a cloud and sent beams of light sparkling across the pond. I wondered how nature in its simplicity could arouse such awe. As I continued to gaze over the reflective pond, a translucent shimmering caught my eye. I thought it was a butterfly swimming under the water. Immediately, I dismissed the illogical observation. With that thought, the aberration disappeared.
Disappointed, I let go of my rational mind and brought my attention back to the silvery particles of light. After a few minutes, to my amazement, not one but several of the creatures appeared. The only way I can describe them is to say that they looked like butterflies--butterflies with diaphanous wings studded in dancing sparkles of sunlight. Most of them glided over the surface, but two undulated beneath the water. As the magical creatures played before me, I felt my lips curl into a boyish grin. It was the knowing smile of a child whose beliefs in fairies, elves, and magic had just been realized.
When my logical mind interceded again, the water fairies immediately melded into the random sparkles of sunlight—and disappeared. I spent the next couple of hours playing hide and seek with these sylphs, or whatever one wants to call them. As I watched and even waded in the pond, they appeared and disappeared with the change of my focus.
It’s difficult to tell you what I experienced that afternoon. That’s a bit embarrassing for me to admit because it is now my career—I’m a visionary writer and speaker, so I’m supposed to be able to transmit the mystical into form, into words. But the truth of the matter is that the full essence of my, or any others, mystical moments are impossible to capture. That’s because they reside out of reach of the logical mind, beyond the limits of our words, preconceptions, and beliefs, just a dream away from our understanding.
Can a picture of the Grand Canyon unfold one’s experience within its majestic walls? Can a video of childbirth demonstrate the depth of love and connection a woman feels as she gives physical life to a soul? Can any words ever fully express what it’s like to be touched by a fairy, an angel, or the Divine? Those moments are such personal experiences, yet they are available to all of us.
It’s been eighteen years since that mystical afternoon took place. Sadly, I have to say that a dragonfly has never again landed on me, and I have not seen those mysterious, sparkly creatures again. Since that time I have lived a rollercoaster ride of memorable highs and lows. And yes, I have had a few other mystical twinklings. Yet there are few moments that have clung to me with such clarity as that hot summer afternoon by the cool pond.
What I can tell you is that there is never a time when I hear or see a dragonfly that I don’t feel a deep connection. And when I notice the glittering of sun or moonbeams dancing on an ocean, a lake, or a puddle, a big, boyish grin always comes to my face. With that sense of connection or with that smile, I’m reminded about the thin veil that separates the “real” world from the mystical one. I’m reminded of how the slightest change of focus can bring magic to any of my ordinary moments.
So now, when I’m caught up in everyday realities and find myself face-to-face with a clerk or a co-worker, a friend or a foe, a loved one or a boss, I try—I’m not always successful, but I try—to feel the dragonfly sitting on their words and see the sparkling water fairies swimming in their eyes.
Reprinted from Hot Chocolate for the Mystical Soul by Arielle Ford
PEIS on Earth
"It's just one thing," the wild eyed, tough and gritty cowboy played by Jack Palance tells Billy Crystal in the movie, "City Slickers." That's how "Curly" explains the meaning of life, raising one dirty-nailed index finger to signify, "just one thing."
I'm not so sure that it's all that simple. For many people that "one thing" ends up being too myopic. If you view yourself and your world with too narrow of a perspective the answers to your questions will follow suit. This can lead to an array of difficulties that will inevitably befall you, such as addictions, alienation, deep-seated anger, and so on.
But I do believe that the pot at the end of the rainbow, the missing piece of the puzzle, the magical key that we are all looking for is . . . (for those who can't see me, I'm pointing my clean-nailed, ink-smeared index finger) . . . that "one thing" we are all truly searching for is not a job, an object, a role, a mantra, or really any thing; it is a constantly changing dynamic process known as BALANCE.
Balance of what you might ask. (That's a great question. Remember life is not so much in having the "right" answers, but in asking the "right" questions.) Now to answer your question: balance of PEIS (pronounced "peace")--physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. These are the four aspects that comprise who we are. In truth, we are Spirit reflected in the physical, emotional, and intellectual. In this previous statement lies the answer to the question that eventually gets asked: Who am I? Until we ask that question and come to some similar response, I believe we will always be searching and life will be more of a mystery than it needs to be.
We need to live life and feel--not think--how and to what extent PEIS is to interact within our lives. So here we are, a wonderful luminous light source called a soul who is experiencing life through reflections of the physical, emotional, and intellectual. For most of us, including myself, many decisions have been based on the superficial belief that our essence is mostly physical. Therefore in our search for happiness, love, and fulfillment, we naturally gravitate to the physical for our answers. But then when we get what we thought we were looking for, we still feel a void or that "missing something." Our void only becomes filled when we begin to balance each aspect of our PEIS--physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual--and then integrate the four aspects within one another.
Well then, to be in perfect harmony, should we give 25 percent of our attention to each of those four aspects? The truth is, I don't know what the percentage should be for every person. This planet is a school called Earth and we each have our own lessons to learn about being in total balance. Call that balance "God," "Oneness," "Heaven," or whatever you like. Every soul needs to find her own balance in her own unique way.
In the beginning I used to call my obstacles "battles" between spirit and mind, or emotion and intellect, or any combinations thereof. Now I feel it and know it as a dance among all four aspects of PEIS. Or you might experience the interactions of PEIS like music-like listening to one of the old classical pieces composed by Bach or Beethoven. Within that piece of music several themes interweave among the wind section, the brass section, and maybe the string section. During the music the various themes rise and fall in intensity, from dominant to diminuendo. All of those themes need to be there for the music to be full, rich, and complete. If you were to remove any one of them, the piece of music would sound flat: it would be missing something.
But how do we find that balance? I believe there are certain principles that govern the physical, as well as the metaphysical, universe. In my novel, The Celestial Bar, I explain them in detail. But let me show you an outline of what I call the Universal Principles and their Laws of Energy.
EVERYTHING IS ENERGY
Love is the essence of all energy:
feel it in all that you do.
Energy Has VF
Humankind’s task is to raise theirs.
Energy Designs Form
Use it wisely.
Energy Must Move Freely
—like water downhill:
let it go.
Energy Is Limitless and Powerful
All you ever need is right before you.
ENERGY IS INTERCONNECTED
The universe is a Whole, comprised of energies that interact, share, and create.
Energy Is a Reflection
To change the world, change yourself.
Energy Moves in a Circular Fashion
Be aware of all that you think, feel, and do—it will come back to you a hundred–fold.
ENERGY JUST IS
Let go of all judgments and expectations: you are perfect in this moment.
ENERGY IS MOVING TOWARD BALANCE
Know that you are of spirit reflected in the physical, emotional, and intellectual (PEIS).
Your task is to be in harmony with yourself, with others, with your planet, and with the Oneness.
The more we live these principles, the more our life becomes fulfilled with purpose, love, and joy. If you can remember what occurred in the exact moment of one of your triumphs, I'll bet that your body and emotions were moving freely, that you felt a strong connection to whatever or whomever you were with, and that you were totally "in the moment" with no judgments.
The challenges in our life occur when we do not align ourselves with these principles. One of the Laws of Energy is that Energy Must Move Freely. When you experience pain or discomfort, there is a pretty good chance that energy is stuck somewhere within you. If it is in the body, we experience physical pain, addictions, illness, or disease. In the emotional self, it may be felt as jealousy, depression, or rage. The intellect may exhibit it as an anxious reactive cycle, obsession, or fear. When you have the belief that the world is separate, you move contrary to two Universal Principles: Energy is Interconnected and Energy Just Is. This belief of separateness will bring alienation, fear, violence, prejudice, hate, and war.
Harmony with the Earth
Given our need to seek personal balance, how do we place ourselves in harmony with our planetary home? By using the same Universal Principles. Here are just a few examples:
Energy has a vibrational frequency, so get out into nature and feel it. Let it resonate within every cell of your body. Notice how nature has a natural calming/balancing effect upon your body, emotions, mind, and spirit.
Energy Must Move Freely. Discover where we are stopping the natural flow of our resources: construction and highway development, water management, wildlife habitats, etc. Then act to ensure that flow of energy.
Because All Energy is Interconnected, whatever we do to ourselves will be felt and reflected on our planet. Pay attention to how you interact with others and Earth. Truly see and feel the world as an extension of yourself.
Energy Designs Form; in other words, our thoughts and beliefs about who we are and how we should act will be manifested in our environment as well as our local, state, federal, and international laws and policies. Think, feel, and act in ways that will bring harmony to yourself and Earth.
Earth as a Metaphor for Self
Then how can we view what is happening around us? Remember Energy is a Reflection, so Earth reflects back to us our own journeys. Where are the earthquakes within you? Where are you feeling internally your terra firma shaking? What can you do to feel safe, to create a firm base on which to walk your life? Where are the volcanoes within you? Where is the energy not flowing freely? What do you need to do to release that energy before it causes damage? Within your life, where do you feel that you will be swept away, torn apart, drowned, or burned up?
Again, it is not so much in having the "right" answers, but in asking the "right " questions. As you look around and see this planet with all of its beauty and destruction, you might ask yourself, "How is it that I can create peace on Earth?"
Know in that moment it is possible.
Know in that moment, that one finger--your finger--is pointed deep within you.
Know in that moment it is the balance of PEIS that you seek.
Know in that moment that, by acting on that awareness, you will truly achieve PEIS on Earth!
—By Tom Youngholm
Reprinted in Visions Magazine 1995
If you have read my earlier material you’ll notice that I have changed the acronym of PEIS to PIES. When I wrote Mastering the Art of Balance the order of PIES was needed for logical flow in order to better explain the material–most emotions come from our pre-established beliefs (I)–thus the E after I. In my earlier fictional material I was more focused on the reader pronouncing PEIS as peace.
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