Feeling the Lesson

June 21, 2014 § 9 Comments

Foolishness and vanity took me there.

Stuck on a steep rock face.   Looking down at a sheer drop of lethal dimensions. Looking up at thirty feet of brittle sandstone that came off in my hands in clumps at any serious pressure.

No way up, no way down.

I lost it. Molten anger. Screaming at myself- what the fuck where you thinking? Fuck, fuck, fuck.

Perched there, I settled and took a breath. I looked out at the stunning vistas before me, the mountains in the distance. Breathing, waiting.

Looking over my right shoulder, I saw something familiar. Nothing special, just a bush. But a green, living thing amidst the rock and rubble. Perched, like me, but different.

And I just knew. Twisting my body to the right, I held that bush to my chest and as I did, the rubbly ground beneath my feet slid away.   And that rooted living thing held me.

Looking up, I saw the other bushes scattered amidst the rubble field. Using them as anchors for my feet and my hands, I scrambled my way up through that rubble field back to the rock outcropping above and walked the trail home.

The Tao teaches us that “the soft overcomes the hard.”   Hard rock, soft plant. That day, on that rock face, I felt the lesson in my body.

Saved by Nature’s grace and a regained posture of openness.

Feeling a gratitude beyond words.

 

 

Splendor

October 14, 2013 § 8 Comments

The sea is nearly flat this evening, rhythmic undulations moving slowly to shore, small waves peeling across in a soft roar.  I take the ocean kayak out, paddling to the horizon.  Along the way, a massive sea turtle pops it head up to see the intruder.  A bird dives into the sea ahead of me, emerging with its glistening dinner.

When it feels right, I stop paddling.  Allowing myself to receive what is all around.  I dip my hand into the cold, clear water.   Hear the muffled roar of the break now far away.

As the kayak drifts, my vistas evolve.  The endless sea stretching to the horizon becomes the shore and the final brilliant display of the setting sun.

Isolated and connected, alone but in harmony with all.  The bone deep sense of wonder and peace sets in.

After a time, I paddle in, pausing at the break, not wanting it to end right then.  When it’s time, I push into the small but perfectly formed wave and ride to shore.  I imagine that my kayak especially likes this part.

Splendor.  From standing on the shore preparing to launch to standing in the same spot preparing to leave, and each moment in between.

I want to exist like this, in each moment, in every place, for all of my life.

The Flash

July 23, 2013 § 7 Comments

When I was young, I wasn’t a great athlete but one thing I could do- I could run.  Fast.

As a young boy, I remember summer nights dashing across the lawns of our neighborhood, the darkness accentuating my super-human speed.  Later, I remember running the curve on the cinder track, leaning into the turn, feeling as though the air was holding me up.  And then long runs through the hills of Vermont, feeling stronger as the miles unspooled.

Running has always felt natural to me.

I haven’t had that feeling since an injury eight months ago put running out of my life.   It’s not clear that it will ever be resolved in a way that will bring me back.

I tell myself, and those around me- no worries.  I can always bike and swim and so on.   But somehow those consolations wear out and the sense of loss returns.

So last evening I went to the ocean and felt the cool and foamy surf surge over and around my damaged ankle.  I watched the neighbor boys body surf with a naturalness and abandon familiar to me.  Then Sammie, our dog, joined in- bounding along and through the waves.  I looked to the horizon, felt the offshore breeze that was standing the waves up, smelled the salty air, and heard the roaring surf as it pounded to shore.

And standing there, I understood.

When I try to think my way to some form of calculated consolation for loss, I will always come up short.  But when I am just in my moment, as I was last evening, there is no need for consolation, no sense of loss, no worry about what’s to come.  I’m just there.

Although looking back, and for just the slightest moment, I was somewhere else- a boy flying across the yard on a dark summer night.

Lucky me.

A Year Ago

April 7, 2013 § 23 Comments

In Zen we do not look back- or forward.  There’s just this moment, here and now.

But today, I consciously step out of that way.

Exactly one year ago yesterday, I posted here for the first time.  No idea what would come of this.  Doubted whether anyone would ever actually read what I wrote.  Wondered if I would stick with it.

Unsure, doubtful, hesitant.

A year later.  Still moments of doubt, still times when I drift away.  But of this I am sure- the writing I have done here, and the connections that have arisen for me here, have enriched my life beyond measure.

I am in this work.  I can feel myself in the passages.  I feel also the presence of those who’ve come here.  We have opened ourselves to each other.  A vibrant and shared intimacy tumbles through these pages.

I should not feel pride, I know.  But I do.  A year ago, I took a step, hesitant and unsure.  And then I plunged.  Good for me.

I feel also a nearly overwhelming sense of gratitude- for the work, for the exquisite souls with whom I’ve stood here, for life itself.

And so in this moment, right here, right now, I feel the peace of the journey.

From the Beginning

February 5, 2013 § 43 Comments

Wandering through the museum, appraising the creations scattered along the walls, I found myself before the Rothko and everything stopped.  Anchored in place, rooted in the moment.  That breathtaking moment.

Taking a different path that morning, I walked into the woods in the crisp morning air.  I stopped, stood dead still, hearing only my breath and the faint rustle of the wind.  I saw the trees arching into the infinite blue sky.  I took a breath and everything fell away.

I remember seeing her standing in my office doorway, so many years ago.   The way she stood, her dark hair and luminous brown eyes.  Her arresting and vulnerable beauty.  I knew we would be together, I knew.

In the intervening years, I have often returned to the Rothko, walked those woods countless times, and lived my life with the woman who stood that day in my doorway.   All familiar to me now.

But when I return to that painting, when I step into those woods, it is like the first time.  Filled with wonder, overcome with gratitude- undiminished.

We often think that these feelings- the feelings of the new- in time must leave us.  We imagine we must settle for the faint shadow of those intense first moments.  But those feelings don’t leave us- we walk away from them.

If we are open and ready, if we stop striving to recover something we think we lost, if we simply exist in our moment- before the art, amidst the woods, in the arms of our lover- the familiar is anew.

And so when she leaves me, I still watch her walk away, all these years later, hoping that she might turn around so that I could see her face once more- knowing I will feel again and again what I have always felt- from the beginning.

The Murmuring Brook

January 24, 2013 § 24 Comments

We say, “Step by step I stop the sound of the murmuring brook.”  When you walk along the brook you will hear the water running.  The sound is continuous but you must be able to stop it if you want to stop it.  This is freedom; this is renunciation.”

Shunryu Suzuki

 

Sitting alone in the dead quiet room, I hear the bells.

I am blessed by an affliction that puts a ringing sound in my consciousness ceaselessly.  When I listen for it, it is always there.

Sometimes it goes away.  But it doesn’t really go away because the very moment that I think of it, the sound is there.  It- the sound- is always there.  But like the sound of the murmuring brook, I can stop it.

To stop the ceaseless tolling of those bells in my mind, I need to do only one simple thing- stop listening, stop looking, stop doing.  Just stop.  And be only and simply in the moment.  In full acceptance of all that I am and all that is.

My affliction is like a murmuring brook I walk beside constantly.  Always there.  Ready to receive my renunciation.  Ready to leave me in my freedom.

Such a blessing.

The Stone

January 20, 2013 § 35 Comments

A cold, blue sky winter day.  Sharp wind.  But even from the warm shelter of my kitchen, I am drawn to step out.  To take a few moments out there, outside.  Reconnect.

Many years ago we built a small patio off the kitchen.  A nook bordered with hemlocks, a floor of stone tiles.  I have spent many hours right there, reading, sometimes writing, but mostly just being.

Today I throw on the topcoat and step into that sanctuary.  And as I sit and feel the wind and the sun, the cold and the warm, I look down.  And there it is.

The stone.  Created so long ago, taken from its birthplace, cut into these shapes and brought here.  Etched by the wind and ice, tinted by the sun and rain and the green moss that fills the channels between.  A majestic work of art that its creator, God, Nature, the One, is still crafting, still shaping.

And as I lift my head, I see the trees, the sky, the light and shadows, the tumbling brown leaves.  Beauty, perfection, peace.

Beneath our feet, just outside our door, in the woods, the mountains, or the city street- each precious vista, each precious moment.  Waiting for us.

The beauty of this sacred world.

 

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