1. (15-20 minutes) Spend some time in the cave sitting peacefully in the dark. LISTEN. Do NOT talk. Do NOT fidget or disturb your neighbour. Sit around the fire. You can keep your eyes dimly open, or you may shut them entirely if you wish. Listen to the sounds within the cave. What are they? Describe them in this journal/workbook. How do the sounds you hear affect your awareness? (i.e.: How do the sounds make you feel? What do they make you think? Do they remind you of anything? Do they make you wonder?) Record your observations of external sounds. Next, try to listen to the silence, or the spaces in between the sounds around you. Can you hear silence? If so, how? What is silence? Try to peel away the sounds you hear to see if you can hear what lies beneath all their layers. Record the fruits of your labours in your journal. Finally, try to follow the sound of your own breath in the cave. Watch your thoughts and feelings and bodily sensations as they move from one thing to another, but always redirect your attention back to your breathing. Try counting your breaths in and out, starting at 1 (in-out), then 2 (in-out), all the way up to 10 (in-out). If/when you make it successfully to 10 (and this can be very difficult!), start over again at 1 and repeat. Always remember to redirect your attention back to counting your breaths each time you find your mind wandering. This experiment will help you to develop focus, concentration, and attention. Record your observations and the results of this experiment in your journal below.
2. (40-50 minutes TOTAL) Having inspected the various cave paintings and petroglyphs in our study, try your hand at reproducing ONE of them while in the cave. Use the materials provided for this experiment, but make sure that you treat them with respect, and that you return them to their proper place when you are done with them.
i. (5-10 minutes) Plan your drawing/painting/petroglyph below (consider its size, placement, and medium for reproduction):
ii. (5-10 minutes) Offer your own written interpretation of this artistic reproduction, and speculate why the original artist chose to make such an image. What meaning does the picture have? What thoughts did its artist cultivate? What feelings did s/he have while s/he was rendering this artwork? What sorts of desires, wonderings, questions, thoughts, relations and experiences were the source for this work? Briefly relate/recount your own experience of artistic activity in the cave (paragraph form please):
3. (15-20 minutes) Spend some time in the cave sitting peacefully in the dark. Do NOT talk. Do NOT fidget or disturb your neighbour. Sit around the fire. Gaze into the firelight, or watch the shadows dance on the walls if you wish. Watch the shapes and forms that the light and shadow create. Look for images and ideas in the flame. Record the sorts of things that you think and feel as you look into the flame. Now recall other fires that you have contemplated in the past. Remember the feelings, thoughts, sensations that these fires brought to you. Why does fire affect us in this manner? Why are we attracted to fire? What symbolic meanings can fire have for us? Now imagine you were in a real cave full of ancient paintings, sitting near a real fire in prehistoric times. What would that experience be like? What sorts of things would you think and feel? How would the experience be different? What can you learn from this experience? End this session of our cave experiment with another session of meditation/contemplation. You may follow your breath as before, or you may pick out a spot in the fire to focus your attention, drawing it back again and again each time you find your thoughts and feelings wandering. Record your observations, thoughts, and feelings in the journal/workbook below:
4. Write a Personal Response (3-4 pages, 750-1000 words, 12 point Times New Roman font) to our cave painting/petroglyph experiment. Your response ought to cover the following elements:
ü What different sorts of things were you asked to do during this experiment?
ü What did you observe about yourself in while in the cave? (i.e.: Discuss your challenges with trying the experiment and being attentive; recount your relative successes/failures during the experiment; discuss anything that you thought, felt, or wondered about when you did the experiment. Did any questions or perplexities arise for you during this experiment? What were they?)
ü In your response, consider what is the meaning of the words “contemplation,” “meditation,” and “mindfulness.” How were these ways of being part of our experiment in the cave? What is different about the kind of thinking/mental activity that you were asked to do during this experiment than you typically engage in during math or science class? What is different about the kind of thinking that you were doing in this experiment than is normally the case in your critical-analytic essay writing/English compositions?
ü Next, try relating your own contemplative/meditative/mindfulness experimentation while in the cave to other experiences you have had outside of the cave. How might the cave experiment be similar in some way to your own spiritual searching, journeying, and questioning outside of school? Consider an experience of wonder or transcendence that you have had through nature, through your interactions with others, or by some other means. What new thoughts and questions have such experiences given rise to for you?
Finally, consider what your own experimentation with mindfulness and contemplation in the cave might teach us about our pre-historic and pre-contact ancestors and predecessors. Empathize with your primordial relations: What might ancient peoples who painted and engraved and practised these ways of knowing have to teach us about thinking and understanding? How might the way of knowing that you have practiced briefly in our cave experiment (modelled after such ancient peoples) enrich, deepen, or broaden your own thoughts?
Options for students who are absent during the cave experiment or who are asked to leave:
1. Do some research on the topic of cave paintings and petroglyphs. Write a research paper/essay or an imaginative reflection/personal response concerning your findings. We think that we are so much more knowledgeable than our prehistoric ancestors, but what do you think we can learn from them? What did they understand very well that tends to be overlooked or remain unconsidered by us today? (1000 words, double-spaced, 12 pt. font)
2. Create your own cave drawings in your basement or in a dark natural place -- maybe a root cellar, a cave in the mountains, or a dark forest while camping. Use only primitive tools and materials for your art. Use a weak, precarious flame to get a sense of how difficult it would be to see and to keep your flame lit. (How would you light the flame in the first place? What would you use for fuel, and would you bring extra fuel with you? How would you avoid suffocating from the smoke, since it could not escape from the cave?) What sorts of things would you paint and why? Take a photograph of your painting back to civilization. Be able to explain why you would paint such pictures. Pictorial evidence and an accompanying write-up is required for this alternate submission.
3. Re-create the experience of a cave on your own time: Find a place that has no light or sound and stay inside for an hour (our classes are 80 minutes). If you have no such space, a good way to recreate the effect would be to fill the bathtub with warm water. Turn off the lights and perhaps light a candle or use a night light to dimly illuminate the room. Next, lay in the water with your ears below the water line so that your hearing is muffled by the water (You could also use a snorkel alternatively!). For the best results, find a way of floating so that you are not touching anything. Deprive your senses as much as possible. What can you hear? When you senses are as barren as possible, what is left? What do you experience? Think about the caves and the paintings. Think about your own experiences of things greater than yourself. Think about things that are older than all living, breathing things. Think about ancient trees and mountains. Notice how even though all animals die, each species of animal seems to live beyond the death of its members. Think about how animals would be good symbols for deathless life and rebirth for prehistoric people. Write a personal response to this experience. (1000 words, double-spaced, 12 pt. font)