by Roy Posner
Life response is a wondrous phenomenon that has no bounds. It is boundless because it embraces all of life, which is itself infinite. It is an expression of the principle of 'inner-outer correspondence,' which states that everything on the outside is a reflection of what we are inside. Thus, if the inner changes, the outer instantaneously responds in kind. Thus, if I reverse a negative attitude here, life outside me instantly brings me good fortune, such as the consulting project of my dreams from over there -- even if "there" means a call from someone on the other side of the world with whom I have never communicated before. That is life response.
A number of years ago, my spiritual teacher asked me to take up a new project: to make an effort to fully understand this phenomenon of life. He suggested that I begin this ambitious undertaking by documenting 100 instances of life response, including my own personal experiences, as well as those of others. At the time, it seemed like an overwhelming request -- for who can track a life response, let alone consciously be aware of one -- but in retrospect, it was actually much easier than I thought, as I began to see life response occurring everywhere! In fact, others were more than happy to share with me their own astonishing experiences.
At the time I was preparing for a very special trip from California to the Mesa Verde native American ruins in southwestern Colorado, around 1000 miles east of my home. It was special because my partner Sue had been there thirty years earlier, had a powerful experience at that time, and now, after all of these years, felt compelled to revisit the site, and perhaps relive the deep and meaningful experience she had so very long ago.
As it turned out, I decided to combine the two circumstances -- the effort to gather 100 life response incidents and the vacation and pleasure trip across the western United States -- into one adventure. With this in mind, we set off on our “journey of discovery.”
We began by heading east from the San Francisco Bay Area where we lived, crossed the fertile agriculture-based Central Valley of California, traversed the mighty snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains, and continued on towards the desert-like plains of western Nevada. This was, in essence, the first leg of what was to become a ten-day journey.
At one point on the first day, we descended the down slope of the eastern Sierras just beyond the boundaries of California, and stopped for a snack at a Jack in the Box fast food outlet in Carson City, Nevada the state capital located just outside of the gambling mecca of Reno. While Sue was in the restaurant, I was sat in our car in the parking lot. There I felt compelled to “consecrate” the remainder of our trip. So I called deeply from within to the spiritual Force that I had come to know of over the years, intensely hoping that our journey would be a successful and happy one -- especially for Sue. When she came out of the restaurant a few minutes after, I smiled, but I did not reveal the intense inner experience I just had.
After she got into the passenger side of the car, I started up the car, and continued our journey eastward. Rather than take one of the great superhighways that cuts east and west across the western United States, I had discovered a very special roadway, once known as “The Lincoln Highway.” This extraordinary 2-lane road -- now known as Highway 50 -- is hardly used at all now, and is, in fact, known for its moniker as “The World’s Loneliest Highway.” The possibilities of using this road intrigued me, not only because it was off the beaten path, thereby promising more solitude on our trip, but actually extended nearly the entire 1000-mile distance to our final destination. As it turned out, the McDonald’s parking lot in Carson City, where we had stopped for a short rest, was only a few streets over from the start of this vast, mysterious highway. For all intensive purposes, our own inner and outer journey began at the entrance point to the “world’s loneliest highway.”
Heading out from Carson City, the greenery of California and the soaring Sierra Nevada mountains faded behind us, giving way to the dry, dusty hills and plains of western Nevada. I noticed that the light around us seemed to turn a bright white, as we drove through the dreamy, chalk-like landscape. Contrasting with the deep blue skies, the white light of the land created a dramatic and usual contrast. In fact, I now felt that I had come to an unfamiliar mysterious place, traveling on a silent, personal cross-continental byway toward some unknown destination.
After about an hour or so of driving, we noticed an interesting small rise in the hills just outside Fallon, Nevada, an expanding community built around an important US Navy air base. We pulled off the highway to see what it was, and realized that it was the site of a small state park featuring petroglyphs -- i.e. dramatic rock painting of the ancient native people preserved in their natural setting. We then climbed up the small hill and wandered about the hundreds of 4-10 foot-high boulders on which were carved the mysterious symbols. At one point when I looked around and viewed the lovely wide expanse surrounding the park and basked in the absolutely perfect weather, I felt a deep silence and serenity around me. In fact, I felt as if I were in a kind of a material heaven. Never in my life had I felt such clarity and peace in a natural setting. It was not the peace of meditation, but the peace that everything -- the landscape, the setting, my state of mind -- was utterly perfect; as if a divine perfection had settled on this place.
I later understood how this event was the first concrete result and response to the consecration of the trip that I made an hour or so earlier in the parking lot. Not only had life blessed us with perfect weather, with a beautiful natural setting, and the wonder and mystery of the stone etchings -- but I had a profound ecstatic experience of peace, perfection, and oneness with life.
I have written that consecrated action not only brings perfection to the details of life, and offers new, creative outcomes -- i.e. vast material results -- but also attracts deep spiritual results -- including experiences of peace, serenity, light, beauty, wisdom, knowledge, and joy. Now I was experiencing that truth again first hand.
For this first important stop on our trip then, life could not have been more perfect. In retrospect, this experience was to be a predecessor event, reflecting not only the overall tone of our journey, but signaled the central great event of the trip that occurred several days later at Mesa Verde. (This is an example of the principle that every major circumstance you experience in life has had a predecessor event.)
For the next day and a half we continued on our journey east across the state of Nevada. The first thing that struck me was how beautiful the mountains of Nevada were. Nevada consists of several dozen “spines” of mountain ranges, separated by great valleys with marvelous vistas. Normally they are arid and dusty, and, as a result, are not something that normally attracts the eye. However, now the ranges were magnificently capped by white snow. This was a most unexpected turn, and beautiful to behold. It was to me symbolic of our entire journey -- something beautiful and wondrous that would manifest most unexpectedly. I later learned that Nevada had its heaviest rainfall in 100 years, which accounted for the heavily snow-capped mountains in May, and the unusual deep green valleys, normally rather dead and brown. Though we had entered a patch that was supposed to be the bland byway to our real destination, we had instead discovered an unexpected wonderland of majesty and beauty.
So here we were on the loneliest highway in the world, with not a soul in site, with a palpable silence one could feel in the air, with snow capped mountains separated by long stretches of green valleys under brilliant blue skies in perfect weather conditions. As a result, it repeatedly occurred to me that I was in a kind of physical heaven. I also felt that somehow we had “created” this reality for ourselves. Perhaps it was the result of the power of Sue’s intention of rediscovery on the trip, or the result of my intense consecration for a great outcome, or both.
The next day we continued our journey across Nevada and its wondrous spines of snow-capped mountains separated by vast valleys. We would cross a valley, see a range of mountains up ahead, cut through it, come out of it on a down slope, and then have a vista of the next great valley below, and the next spine of 10,000 foot snow-capped mountains twenty to fifty miles or so in the distance. This was our routine for a day and a half.
One time as we were coming out of one of the range of mountains, descending on the downward slope to the great valley below, we noticed in our rear view mirrors that a big-rig truck was bearing down on us not a half a mile behind. The appearance of the vehicle was a bit starling to us when you consider the fact that ordinarily we wouldn’t see a single vehicle on this cross-country road for twenty minutes at a time. (This was after all the world’s loneliest highway, and, so far, had lived up to its reputation.) Then the rig behind us picked up speed, and gradually bore down on us, coming ever closer and closer. Sue was driving at the time, and this being her first major long distant road experience, she was understandably nervous about the big rig coming up behind us so quickly. Rather than panic or give her any guidance, I relaxed into the situation, and turned my attention to the scenery passing by. At one point however, I looked in the rear view mirror on the passenger side of the car, and noticed that the rig had for some confounding reason suddenly turned off the road -- kicking up considerable dust, veering off into what appeared to be a non-existent exit that seemed to lead to nowhere! This was a most surprising turn of events! I then wondered why in the world would a big-rig truck filled with goods going to market suddenly turn off and head in the direction where there was no road, and nothing but sand and a vast emptiness of space.
After I gathered my thoughts, I sensed that the situation warranted further scrutiny. I then began to wonder what thoughts had been in Sue’s mind between the time the rig was bearing down on us and the end of the incident. When I asked her what she had been thinking about during that time, she told me that she had decided to stop worrying and thinking about the threat of the truck behind us. I then realized that because of her shift in attitude from anxiety to one of neutral unconcern, the truck driver suddenly decided to swerve off the road.
After her satisfying response, I hurriedly pulled out my pad, and scribbled down the details of this “life response” incident. In fact, it was to be the first of many instances of this phenomenon that I would document on the trip. In each case, I would describe the event in detail, and then add my comment on what I believed was the subtle cause of what had taken place; which invariably meant the profound association between the outer positive (or negative) result and the inner consciousness of the person involved. In this case, I noted that if one changes an attitude from one of alarm or fear to one of neutrality and equality, life would suddenly and abundantly respond in kind. I recorded this and dozens of other responses in the year or so that followed. These incidents would provide some of the source material for the book I am currently writing on the topic of life response.
We journeyed on. After crossing the Great Basin - which is an endless white expanse of salt flats, mirages, and dry rivers that includes parts of western Utah - we reached the famous “red rock” region of that state. There we were fortunate enough to see some of the most stunning rock formations in the North America, if not the world.
As we drove through this beautiful, lunar-like, almost surreal landscape, we saw strange dome-shaped formations of pink rock; magnificent arches straddling pillars of stone; odd needle-like stalagmite- shaped structures rising hundreds of feet into the air; and beautiful canyons with vistas that soothed and delighted. In this startling environment, we were wonder-struck, yet still had the presence of mind to capture these magnificent natural formations with our new digital camera!
After our journey through the Canyonlands of Utah, we headed towards our first major stop on the trip -Arches National Park, famous for its wondrous red-rock stone arcs. I had heard about the park some 25 years earlier from an English friend who had been there when it first opened in the 1970s. It was the one natural wonder I looked forward to seeing on our journey. It did not disappoint.
When we first arrived, we were overwhelmed by the magnificent and dreamlike formations of Arches. First, we walked through a stunning canyon where an Indiana Jones movie had been filmed. Then in the distance, perhaps five miles away, I saw something unworldly. Eager to see what it was, we quickly drove over to these formations, and came to a large gathering area at the park. We parked our car in the large lot, and began our short quarter-mile hike up to the wondrous formation known as ‘Window on the World.’ Though much smaller, it had a visceral impact on me that exceeded even my first experiences of Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and others natural North American wonders.
Along with several dozen other tourists, I walked up the wide pathway to this intriguing and beguiling formation. As I came closer, I saw a giant red stone structure about an eighth of a mile across, shaped like a giant mask, in which there were two great openings for the “eyes.” When I walked into one of the great eyes - perhaps 15 yards across - I could look out into a great valley below that seemed to stretch to infinity. To the native peoples who roamed these lands for thousands of years, it must have looked like the face of God staring at them, or staring out into the blue horizon in the distance.
I then traversed another path to another formation directly across from Window on the World that was almost as impressive. Later on, when I came back down from the hill, and looked back at the great stone mask and the other astonishing formations that filled up the area, I felt as if had been transported to another time and place. It reminded me of the experience of Dr. Elie Arroway in the film ‘Contact,’ when she voyaged to an unimaginable dream-like location beyond the stars. It was a moment of supreme mystery and wonder for me; or, to paraphrase Sri Aurobindo, a “moment of the unexpected.” In that short space of time, most of my personal desires for the trip appeared fulfilled.
And yet for all of the magic of those moments, there was another event that happened shortly thereafter -- something quite ordinary actually - that had an even greater impact on my consciousness that day.
Let’s go back a moment in time. As Sue and I were walking around the great formation opposite Window on the World, she told me that that needed to use the rest facilities. Though it was difficult to let go of the powerful outer experiences I was having, I was able to exercise some self-control, assuage my irritation, and finally accede to Sue’s more pressing needs. As a result, I suggested we immediately leave the scene to find a rest area. We then quickly headed down the hill down to the parking lot, where I looked for a facility. When I could not find anything, we got into our car, and drove off looking for another location. At the very moment we exited the area, we saw a rest facility just on the other side of the road!
Though the instant results struck me as a very nice development, it did not end there. In fact, when we pulled into that rest area, we discovered a beautiful little park behind it, with benches, tables, and a lovely view. With such an inviting environment, we unpacked the foodstuffs that Sue prepared for such an occasion, and had a nice little picnic. It turned out that not only did the simple food taste delicious, not only was the view sublime, but I also felt a profound sense of peace and well-being. Like the earlier experience at the petroglyphs, I not only felt a joy that reflected the perfection of the moment, but I also felt a sense of serenity and stillness within.
In fact, this turned out to be one of the great experiences of the trip - not only because I had such a wonderful inner and outer experience at the picnic, but also because I was reminded of the enormous power of self-giving. It dawned on me that life had sent this blessing of serenity and ease because I had been willing to give up my own enjoyable experience for the sake of pleasing another. By controlling my emotions when I was on the hill, by sincerely focusing on another’s needs, and by making the determined effort to see another’s wish come about, I released a current of positive energy that not only helped resolve a pressing problem, but also opened the door to wonderful new possibilities that culminated in a magnificent inner experience. Life had in essence responded in an overwhelming fashion on the outside to a decisive reversal of my consciousness within. In the end, this incident would turn out be one of the key life response events I documented on the trip.
After a wonder-filled day at Arches National Park, we continued on our journey. We headed south and then west into Colorado in pursuit of our ultimate destination - Mesa Verde National Park. We crossed the great high plains of western Colorado, punctuated here and there by giant volcanic-like mountains in the distance. We finally arrived in small city of Cortez, and the next morning we headed out to Mesa Verde. When we arrived, there was some construction work going on, but otherwise the park was virtually empty of people. Apparently, it had just opened after the winter season. As we wound our way up the great mesa that sits just outside of Cortez, we got a sense of the lay of the land that for a thousand years had been the homeland of the cliff-dwelling ancestral Puebloan people. When we settled into our campgrounds - which were surprisingly empty, meaning that we had that area mostly to ourselves - we knew we arrived at the ultimate destination of our trip. It was here that we had journeyed a thousand miles to revisit Sue’s wonderful experiences of 30 years ago.
The park consists of a giant mesa, several thousand feet high, about 10 x 5 miles across, with a flat top (which is what a mesa is), covered with dense forests. Circling the rim and the inner folds of the mesa is a u-shaped road from which the visitor can view the stunning ancient cliff dwellings astride the great canyons. What is most fascinating about the organization of the park, however, is the fact that it is laid out like a giant outdoor museum. You can drive down the main road and its various branches, providing you with easy access to its dozens of “discovery areas.” At each site, there was extraordinary amount of signage and other forms of information describing the purpose of each structure in the ancient peoples’ lives. The extraordinary amount of detail presented suggested management’s deep respect for and a rich understanding of a way of life now nearly forgotten.
In the days that followed, we made our way through virtually every one of the discovery areas, capturing the experience with our cameras. At one point, we walked down a long winding path and down into one of the great cliff dwelling mini villages. Like other tourists, we were astonished by the enormity, wonder, and power of the site.
One morning, as our three-day visit to the park was winding down, we arrived at one of the last discovery areas. There we came upon a charming site located at the edge of forest, with a fine view in the distance. The site consisted of a wide-open, slightly down-sloping clearing of about 70 x 30 meters with two sets of roofless red brick adobe structures at either end. First, we began to explore the group of structures at the “upper” end. There we crept through a maze of one and two story brick edifices, several of which contained “kivas” - i.e. round, pit-like dug out areas of the floor used for religious and other ceremonies. After climbing in, around, and through the maze-like structures, Sue wandered off towards the edifices at the “lower” end of the site, around 50 meters away. Meanwhile, I continued to enjoy squeezing in and out of the small openings and passageways like a small child in a playground. From time to time, I would look up and see that Sue was up to at the other end of the site.
At one point, as I was having fun in one of the labyrinth-like structures at the upper end, I suddenly heard an excited call from the other end. When I realized that it was Sue’s voice, I hurried over to see what was going on. When I got there, I wondered why Sue was so animated. She then pointed to a red brick wall in front of us. At first, I did not understand what she was trying to tell me, since I saw nothing special on the wall. However, when I looked a little closer, I noticed that the wall had a spiral-like symbol etched into it. I stared at it for a second, looked back at Sue, and then realized that this was a very special moment for her.
Sue then told me that she had seen this very carving the last time she had visited Mesa Verde, 30 years earlier. She also told me that for days she had been searching for the symbol amongst the many sites we had visited, but could not find it anywhere. And now, after all of her efforts, it suddenly appeared right before her eyes!
Later on, when we discussed this event, I found out how Sue came to discover the symbol. She told me that when we first arrived at this particular site, she felt that the symbol might in fact be there. In other words, she subtly sensed its presence. When she then wandered over to the lower end structures, and still could not find it, frustration begun to well up inside her. However, when she made the decision to let go of her frustration, to release the anguish and intensity that had disturbed her, she suddenly saw the spiral symbol. By giving up her intense desire, Sue had returned to the calm, and the pure underlying aspiration and yearning within. Then when she turned around, there it was right in front of her!
It was truly an instance of life response in all its splendor - providing magnificent outer results, as well as deep inner joy and fulfillment that often accompanies this wondrous phenomenon of life. The spiral carved in stone - a great symbol of life and evolution for the ancient peoples - had not only come to represent our ten day journey across this beautiful land, but the fulfillment of a heart’s desire and a soul’s yearning and aspiration.
Life response is a wondrous phenomenon of life that reflects the profound relationship between the life outside ourselves and our consciousness within. If we shift our inner condition further to the positive, then life outside can instantly respond in kind. It is itself reflection of the profound Oneness of all existence.
On this trip across a magical landscape, we had experienced innumerable instances where life had responded to a change of consciousness within. When we gave up a fear and moved to relaxation and ease; when we gave up a wanting attitude for something more positive; when we moved away from our ego and embraced the needs of another; when we overcame a frustration and let things be; and when we opened to the spirit and consecrated an entire journey from the depths of our being, life responded in overwhelming fashion.
Though we had discovered the magnificent outer realities in the golden west of America, we had also experienced the enormous power of moving to a higher consciousness within. In both respects, it had truly been a journey of a lifetime.
See also other Case Studies on Life Response