The pungent manure smell wafting through my mother's Wiltshire cottage this morning is one clue that an extraordinary phenomenon is coming to an end. The steady drone of combine harvesters all night every night for a week is another. As the giant machines shave down the quivering golden wheat fields that surround the house into neat, cadet-like crew cuts, and then plough the soil full of cow poop to ready them for next season, the raw canvas for nature's astounding display of crop circles is getting diminished by the day.

For those who've been participating in the show since May — the people who, by visiting and experiencing the formations bring meaning to them — there's a bittersweet feeling of something profound coming to its seasonal end. While the rest of the world's been watching Michael Jackson's funeral, a quiet stream of unlikely modern pilgrims, from English retirees and Belgian tourists to school kids and tie-dyed travelers, have found their way to this southwest patch of England. They've walked the land and in brushing up against something that defies categorization, elicits feelings of joy, and surpasses understanding, have had a mystical experience.

I got an unexpected front row seat at this play of nature when I arrived here in July. I wasn't looking to get initiated into earth mysteries, sacred sites, and mystical patterns in the grass. My life and work in Los Angeles orbit around all things transcendent. I teach Vedic meditation, an ancient technique of mental de-excitation that empowers ordinary people to access the vast, silent, innermost field of Being within. I love my work and I consider it a vital tool for personal and planetary evolution. But frankly, I was coming home to my mother's village of Beckhampton, a blink-and-you-miss-it strip of houses nestled under Wiltshire's high, rolling arable land, to do something less subtle. My goal was to hide out in the country for a few weeks, eat lots of double cream, and nurse a broken heart.

I didn't get too far with that. Something happens when your surrounding landscape is temporarily tattooed with graceful spirals of infinity, giant jellyfish comprising seven ascending circles of consciousness, and phoenixes rising from the ashes, that makes it a little hard to mooch around, mourning your man. If you have a pulse, you can't help but go a little Indy Jones. First, you watch for early morning micro light activity above the fields — it means the local researchers are out taking pictures of fresh formations nearby. Next you cross-reference the aerial images on their crop circle websites with cumbersome Ordinance Survey maps, to narrow down the location. And then, even though you're thirty-five, you get your mom to drive you around country lanes so you can stare for telltale signs of activity behind the hedgerows: clues like two or more cars parked in unlikely spot, camper vans festooned with peace signs, or occasionally, a tour bus unloading Earth Mystery fans from Amsterdam.

 

Once I found the way into the formations, following the pencil-thin lines already drawn in the crop by tractors, it was harder still to stay frozen in any kind of relative-world funk. A few hundred yards to the east of our house lies the field where the massive "Quetzalcoatl headdress" formation appeared in July; a quick dog-walk has me plunked in the middle of a freshly stamped, intricate solar system — a massive sequence of circles stenciled into the grain at the prehistoric ritual site, Windmill Hill. The proximity of these forms to my kitchen table is breathtaking. The excitement they elicit is gloriously childish. (Skipping out from the giant hummingbird formation at Stanton St. Bernard, I gave an inward rebel yell and pledged to be an explorer when I grew up.) The hardest of hearts, the most distracted of minds experience an instant softening and slowing. The only word I can use to describe the experience is wonder. 

As I've come to discover, there's plenty to debate about the "hows" of crop formations, especially if you're interacting with them as concepts or signs of a big shift. This kind of attention is justified, of course. All mysteries lend themselves to detective work, and this year's bumper crop of formations — seventy in this area alone this summer, with tremendous degrees of sophistication and nuance in both theme and actual construction — presents a cryptic metaphysical riddle.

There is credible, detailed research available that shows what's been observed and measured before, during, and after the formations appear, and it's all fascinating. For example, it's unanimously accepted by those who bother to look closely that while man made copycat formations do exist, they are easy to spot; the majority of formations are not man made. See crop circle researcher and author Janet Ossebaard's very practical breakdown of the biophysical abnormalities in the crop and soil here. 

Meanwhile, the Wiltshire Crop Circle Study Group send anonymous samples to the UK's major agricultural labs and consistently receive results of distinct changes in both plant structure and soil composition after crop circles. There's also plenty of material on the electromagnetic energy that may be flattening the crop into these elaborate patterns. Move to the unavoidable subject of extra-terrestrials and UFOs and the conversation gets really long. For the purposes of this article, I'll just say that perhaps different brains make different models in order to comprehend phenomena that's unknown to them, and all are as real as each other. You say extra celestial, I say prana; we both see dancing balls of light.

Other debates focus on the "whats." What is the hidden message in the glyphs — and will we decipher it in time? It can be quite crack-the-code exciting. But try too hard to decode, translate, and semiotically read the symbols and you risk losing the essence of what they're about. A child, frankly, can understand the symbolism of the crop circles, because they trigger an instant experience. For example, looking at a perfect geometrical image, which is what many of the formations are, will deliver an instant understanding of something profound. At some universal level of reality, even if it's far below your chaotic reality, you know that everything is balanced and in the right order. You don't have to understand "how" geometry works. You don't have to know the significance of twelve arms of the mandala versus ten. Like hearing notes in a tuneful chord, you immediately experience the harmony as a felt experience inside yourself when you see it depicted visually.

circles

Likewise with the images of nature, the cosmos, and symbols from ancient civilizations that have been coming up in this year's pantheon of crop glyphs. Taken together, they create a larger theme that Janet Ossebaard terms, "2009: Year of the Apocalypse," where apocalypse means the great revealing, or an end to secrets and an end to living in a state of disconnect. That's good to know. But as potent as these signs may be, it's the individual's experience of the crop formations that has the power to bridge that disconnect, not the rational understanding of them.

Of far more interest to me are the "whys." Why are these forms appearing? Why here in this area? And most significantly, why are people coming to them? There are no right answers here, only insights. What I've witnessed is that most people who've been touched by these happenings, whether they've been sitting, sharing, or touring around the barley swirls or attending the impressive "Crop Circle Conference" hosted by the Wiltshire study group two weekends ago, don't want to nail a definitive answer about their raison d'être. They're simply drawn to experiencing the ineffable for themselves.

So let the brainiacs decode the glyphs, squiggles and dashes — such as those featured in the mesmerizing, thousand-foot long Milk Hill formation that even a fifth-grader would tell you is a message from the outer galaxies. I'll await the results with curiosity myself — and sue me if we missed a time-sensitive cosmic communication.

I believe the true purpose of the crop art is to be a bridge: a functional, usable connecting link between ordinary humans and the bigger insights about who and what we really are and what we may actually be here to do.

I'm no expert. I'm a meditation teacher, self-proclaimed earth-mystery naïf, and accidental tourist at the metaphysical event of the year. But I am here. These are my personal insights into the "whys" of these beautiful, mystifying earth tattoos.

 

Crop Circles are Consciousness Displaying Itself

The first time crop circles landed on my radar was earlier this year at a presentation of physicist Nassim Haramein's work at Project Butterfly in L.A. (a partner of Evolver.net). Haramein's rollercoaster-ride survey takes the audience from his new formula for a "theory of everything" and the sacred geometry that describes it, to the ancient civilizations that understood it, to the built structures and natural phenomena, including crop formations, that express it. The hairs on my arms stood up. These wheat field phenomena were a direct expression of something the Vedic sages or "rishis" describe beautifully: The cosmic intelligence that creates and permeates everything, including us, is constantly dancing with us, showing us its presence and trying to trigger a reciprocal response.

Call this force what you like — existence, being, nature, oneness, Brahman, the ocean of pure consciousness that underlies material reality — the rishis say that it's constantly waving at us, vying for our attention, so that we remember the vastness and wholeness of our true nature and suffer less as a result. Crop formations might just be Brahman operating in full effect: cosmic intelligence bending stalks of wheat, barley, grass, and corn into graphic shapes that communicate harmony, order, and wholeness in a single, breathtaking instant.

To do this most effectively, it's using the language our generation speaks best: logos. It's as if the great That has, with a sigh, recognized that its trademark orchestral pieces — the orbits and the tides, the unfurling of leaves, and the regeneration of cells that demonstrate beautifully organized intelligence in every second of every day — lack the punch we new millennials need to wake us up. A massive icon kissed onto empty fields in the brief hours of mid-summer darkness? That gets straight to the point. It's the cosmic equivalent of guerilla marketers stenciling Williamsburg warehouses, a motif that makes you look twice. Only this time the brand they're promoting is us.

Brilliantly, the logos appear on, in, and created from the very material that most needs our cherishing and attention. Like a tattoo on the rump of a very attractive lady, a golden mandala on the side of a sweeping hill — if you're lucky enough to see it from one of the high points that crown this undulating landscape –can't help but make you sigh at the ravishing natural environment that is its canvas.

As for the recurring themes in this grain and grass show, I think they mimic the way themes come and go at every level of culture. Trends in tattoos, trends in graphic design — certain styles proliferate because they're what we're collectively attending to. This year, as the "Mayan prophecy" heightens in the mass awareness, it's no surprise that images reflecting Mesoamerican civilizations, from Nazca line drawings to Aztec serpent gods, have popped up. What's in our collective consciousness prints out in our collective imagery. It acts as reinforcement of something that's already happening.

Finally, why are there suddenly more of them than ever? Expectation breeds reality — a basic tenet of the Veda and quantum physics both. The more that members of the collective turn to look at consciousness expressing itself, the more it will express. The more evolved the watcher, the more evolved the watched will become. This summer's crop circle gallery is not only record-breaking in number, but jaw dropping in its diversity and finesse. As interest spreads, perhaps the biggest and most dramatic imprint of the season will be generated. (Insiders are still waiting for a biggie in Wiltshire's East Field, home of the legendary 7/7/07 Aum formation.)

 

They Exist to Trigger an Upgrade

Moving along a crop formation's swath of sculpted air — imagine walking through a curving, knee-high gorge of gold, made by living stalks that have bowed in perfect unison to kiss the earth — can elicit an experience similar to meditation. Spontaneously, stilled by wonder, you fall into the very innocent experience of forgetting to question, of even forgetting to think. Instead, you are allowed to simply be. With the chattering mind quieted for a moment, you might detect something that's normally drowned out underneath. The stillness. The place not dominated by the singular "I" but rather pulsing with the simple "isness" of being alive, that shared place where you're not just a lone atom adrift with no purpose.

In my line of work, we call this happening a consciousness upgrade. Perhaps crop circles play just as important a role in a soul's development as yoga and meditation. These artworks made of empty space exist to safely let a person touch the void in which everything, including their individuality, is sourced, and in so doing, help them move up from one level of awareness to the next.

What I specifically see is that these formations in the cereals and grasses — literally, they're happening in our food sources — play a role in shifting us to a much-needed earthbound spirituality. As our spirits expand and exult, we are forbidden from floating into the comfy, but rather non-urgent realm of the ethers, by the very fact that our feet are planted in the soil. Visitors to the formations have often walked out to this temporary temple in all kinds of weather. They've climbed over fences, inhaled the crop dust, and felt the crackling of plant life underfoot. (They may also have trespassed, though many fields host a donation box and request for respect.) Their senses are awakened and invigorated. Once in the formation, they can't help but be a bridge. One part looks to the ground while one part looks to the heavens above. A vitally important reunion is taking place between humans and the living breathing planet they live in.

 

They Bring Us Back to Sacred Sites

These formations don't appear in this corner of the world by some random act of geography. This area of Wiltshire hosts a concentration of ancient Britain's most important sacred sites. There's Silbury Hill, the giant mounded earthwork that swells mysteriously into the sky, its prehistoric purpose still obscured but thought to be related to goddess worship. There's West Kennet Long Barrow next to it, the massive burial tomb, or possibly a ritual site. And while Stonehenge gets the bulk of the visitors thirty miles to the south, a critical centerpiece of ancient Britain lies here at the center of crop circle land: the stunning, serpentine avenues of massive standing stones at the village of Avebury, where ancient peoples, as described in Paul Broadhurst's seminal text The Sun and The Serpent, may have traveled to welcome in the sun on Mayday with exuberant fertility rituals of fire and light.

In the view of earth energy experts like Broadhurst, this area of England is a place of power, throbbing with magnetic terrestrial currents that meet and concentrate at nodes like nerve centers — or energetic meridian points — in the body. Ancient peoples felt this energy and lived in relationship with it, building stone circles and earthworks that allowed them to raise and praise the natural forces, to worship the sacred feminine, Mother Earth, and in so doing, experience their highest connection to the divine. (According to Hugh Newman, author of Earth Grids: The Secret Patterns of Gaia's Sacred Sites, the sites may have also let them harness this earth energy for improving their own crop fertility.) By inviting us to walk this terrain again, even if it's just to cut past an ancient megalith on the way to a wheat field, the crop formations may serve another purpose. They reawaken in our ancient memory some long-forgotten wisdom, such as how to work with the laws of nature, the value of devotion to the goddess and the mother, and how to cultivate a relationship to a vaster cosmology that could guide us again today.

There may be more. Perhaps the mass convergence of humans at these power centers many millennia ago had a large-scale holistic healing purpose. Human devotion and ritual may stimulate these energy centers, healing and cleansing them, charging up the meridians so that the earth could continue to provide. Seen this way, today's crop circles may be enticements more than meaningful symbols. They exist to draw us back, through a numinous sense of delight and desire, to converge at sacred sites again en masse. We then become quite useful participants in some planetary critical care. Vibrating with excitement, we're the acupuncture needles that the earth is using to heal herself.

 

Their Purpose is to Inspire Action

The intricate basket weaving of overlapping stem, the graceful swirls and eddies of unbroken stalks, and the sometimes palpable charge of energy you can feel amongst the formations — these effects can't be created simply to trigger inner awareness. To be truly useful in an age of great awakening, mystical phenomena must catalyze outward action too.

I think that's partly why the medium of cereals is so perfect for this moment. In addition to bringing our attention to Demeter, goddess of the harvest, and sparking a renewed reverence for everything ripe and feminine, it makes for transcendent art with a shelf life. These pictograms are like temporary temples whose demolition is already planned-we already know the installation will get dismantled just as soon as harvest week hits.

And that's part of their power. We're not gazing at images etched into the side, say, of Mount Rushmore or even of the pyramids, sacred geometries frozen in stone to inspire endless contemplation. These things appear quickly in fast-growing life forms. They invite us to get off our couch and hike inside them before they dissolve back into the land. Come see us, be moved by us, and then go! they seem to say. Let us flick on a little light in you, but then get back in your car/camper van/tourist bus and take that inspiration on the road.

The Vedic rishis also said, "Knowledge is for action." Glimpses of a larger reality or a more profound purpose are not secret things to be sequestered. They're intended to fuel you into some kind of action that helps progress the whole. I kind of like the way these funny phenomena do that.

Over lunch at the crop circle conference, I shared a table with a man from Ghent, Belgium named Igor. An entrepreneur who is committed to innovating a time-based model of complementary currency in his home city, he said he'd decided on the spur of the moment to drive to a ferry to visit the Wiltshire formations. He'd slept in one of them the night before. He'd had no divine visions or curious sensations; polo-shirted and silver-haired, he was about as un-woo woo as you get.

"Sometimes when you're working with businesses and governments, you find yourself moving back to the old ways of doing business. You get pulled backwards by their forces," he said. Aware that his work was a key component of a massive paradigm shift, and momentarily taxed by the reality of it, Igor's spontaneous trip to the mystical had highly functional motivation. "I need to be reminded why I'm doing what I'm doing."

 

Amely Greeven teaches Vedic meditation, writes about health, wellness, and sustainability, and shares "modern survival tools for the 21st century" in Los Angeles and around the world. Her recent book collaboration, CLEAN with Dr Alejandro Junger, is a pragmatic guide to detoxing in the modern world (Harper Collins). Visit her website here.