New Year's resolutions become the focus of my thoughts on this morning's walk. It's ironic that all this trying is counterproductive to the ultimate goal. Enlightenment occurs when we stop doing and consent to falling into being. "How do I do that?" I ask myself. The answer stands before me in this wood lot of winter trees where I've paused for contemplation.
Each tree is completely itself in its perfect imperfection--broken branches, split trunks, whorls where insects have burowed into an old wound. The trees are content to live in harmony with their environment, and they sing the song they were born to sing. Each one responds with inner wisdom to the breezes, the cold, the rain, and the sun, giving their gift and expecting nothing in return. The trees dance with their neighbors and submit without complaint when the number of days alloted for this incarnation comes to an end. The trees are teachers of perfect presence and profound contentment.
May I cultivate such qualities in the coming year, mindfully practicing until presence becomes my way of being in the world.
Thanksgiving Day appears on the calendar once a year in the U.S. Its originators were wise enough to set aside this time for us to stop and notice the bounty we've been given. I begin my thank you list with the gift of life itself. As a hospice volunteer I've had many opportunities to reflect on its wonder. How often I foolishly squander portions of it in days, weeks, and years of unconsciousness.
I know there have been times when I haven't really seen the sky or stars for days or weeks, felt the wind on my face, marveled at my body's ways of operating without instruction, or appreciated the many loving friends and family in my life. How could I have gotten so caught up in the minutia of life that I missed noticing these miracles? There are so many ways I've been richly blessed--in many ways beyond what others have. There is a roof over my head, one that keeps me dry and warm. I have enough food to eat, good health, and work that is fulfilling and frequently sacred.
Most extraordinary is the wisdom I've received from a host of wonderful, gifted teachers. Through their words and practices I've learned to seek shelter regularly in my heart and go there whenever I lose the path. The heart's metaphysical nature is universal Spirit, a space of love and peace. Especially in this season I offer my gratitude to extraordinary teachers including Jacki, Angela, Cindy, Craig, Goswami Kriyananda, Romana-ji, Karen, Elissa, Swami Muktananda, and Gurumayi. Dear teachers, for the first time today I recognize that I'm not lost anymore. I've been found right here where I've been all along.
If waters are placid, the moon will be mirrored perfectly. If we still ourselves, we can mirror the divine perfectly. But if we engage solely in the frenetic activities of our daily involvements, if we seek to impose our own schemes on the natural order, and if we allow ourselves to become absorbed in self-centered views, the surface of our waters becomes turbulent. Then we cannot be receptive to Tao.
There is no effort that we can make to still ourselves. True stillness comes naturally from moments of solitude where we allow our minds to settle. Just as water seeks its own level, the mind will gravitate toward the holy. Muddy water will become clear if allowed to stand undisturbed, and so too will the mind become clear if it is allowed to be still.
-Deng Mind-Sao from 365 Tao: Daily Meditations
We live in an age of multi-tasking. Everyone including children are encouraged to do several things at once. Our culture suggests this is a virtuous way to live, to accomplish more in less time. I'm certain this is the wrong way to go. Too often I've fallen into the old productivity trap. A tip off for me is a nagging feeling of emptiness. A chance for a turn around comes each day when I walk the dog. For half an hour each morning and evening, nothing (and everything) happens-- without me. The ordinary world and the familiar woman I know are transformed. Like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, life begins taking on a new shape. Black and white switches almost instantly to 3 D and technicolor.
My recipe for falling into wonder is amazingly simple. First, find the dog and head for the door. At the end of the driveway my feet trace a familiar path down the country road. Moving further from the house thoughts gradually slow down and my mind gets quiet and more open. All my senses engage, first with the breadth of the sky and the softness of the distant hills, then with the gentian blue of wildflowers growing along the road's shoulder, the orange of a monarch butterfly tossed by the wind, a distant bird's song. There are late summer apples ripening on a nearby tree--something coming from nothing. That in itself feels like a miracle. How often have I failed to notice?
Twenty minutes from the house there is only "now". The experience of simply being is precious. If I've entered the flow I feel gratitude and connection, a state I call presence. My friend describes it as being in her heart. Thoreau knew this secret and described his experience in the essay entitled Walking. What would happen if you were to discover you were missing the best part of your life? This could be so. Try going for a walk and really slow down.
Yoga is the practice of attunement, an opportunity to encounter one's true self-- perhaps for the very first time. This can be a startling experience, oftentimes delightful and filled with wonder. Anyone can choose to make this journey. All that's required is a willingness to begin. I hope that reading this journal will encourage you to begin your own practice of introspection. Whether you choose to practice yoga asanas, walk quietly in nature, record reflections in a journal, or sit at the side of a dying person...you have chosen to begin. You have joined your body, mind, and heart with the intention to meet your true self.
This blog reflects my desire to share with others the character of my personal journey. The experience, the musings, and the "ah-ha" monents arise from my spiritual practice. Although such gifts of wisdom are deeply cherished, these treasures are not mine to keep. They surface from a deep source of knowing that belongs to all of us.
I offer you my journal of expanding consciousness, of waking up. May these entries resonate with some deep and cherished part of you and perhaps become encouragement to begin a journey of awakening of your own. A hallmark of that spiritual path is a growing state of transparency, of being who you are more completely, through and through. Let's agree to meet in that place. Till next time...