June 10, 2016 § 17 Comments
Standing before the ocean, I felt the rhythm of the natural world.
The waves relentlessly marched towards shore. Forming their swells, then peaking and crashing. All the movement seemed forward and aggressive.
But I looked again as the waves broke. When the frothy wave reached its furthest purchase, it began its return, gently sliding back to the sea. Back to its source.
Crashing forward, sliding back. Forward, back. Repeated endlessly.
Opposed motion, each existing apart from the other, each dependent on the other. The advancing waves would cease if the retreating water did not return, just as the receding movement could not arise without the crashing wave that gives it birth.
This rhythm, this pattern, recurs across the sweep of our endless natural world. It is in the wind and the tide, the trajectory of the sun, the garden out back. It is embodied in our breath and in the coil of life’s journey.
I often lose this sense of connection and oneness. Falling away, I am lost and adrift.
But when I take and hold this communion, when the truth of this lives in my bones, I feel safe and at peace. As I did this day, surrounded by the natural world and the others I love.
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.
November 17, 2013 § 12 Comments
I feel the anger rise up- and I breathe.
I sense my busy head at work, slamming one thought into another, spinning, spinning, spinning- and I breathe.
Hard things, tough, gut-wrenching things rise into my consciousness- and I breathe.
If we use our practice only to evade the fear, to dance away, to push down the thoughts, we gain nothing spiritually, only perhaps a temporary physical reprieve from the symptoms of our fear. This is a false and brittle sense of peace, the illusion of peace.
To be truly at peace is to be beyond the reach of anger, anxiety, or fear. It is to be at the center. Strong, open, and ready.
Right now, as I look out my window, I see the cold rain falling. I want to step out into that rain. I don’t want to stay inside or wear a raincoat. I don’t want to avoid or pretend to manage the rain.
I want the rain to fall upon me.
I want to exist in this way.
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.
October 7, 2013 § 29 Comments
It is dark, long before the dawn. I move through the house, not needing the light to navigate this familiar space.
A steady nourishing rain is falling. I hear its hum. And then the wind comes up- the rain hits the house with its strong staccato beat. I open the window for a moment and feel the cold, wet air on my face.
And right then- in that moment- all the punishing duality disappears. There is no me and the rain, no me and the house, no me and the many things that I must do.
A moment of just being.
I am home.
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.
July 20, 2013 § 14 Comments