“..it is difficult to accept there are no answers in life…there is only, it seems, the returning glimpse of wholeness in which all is seen and felt..and illuminated.”
~ Mark Nepo/Lorrie Jones
It is now day three of our retreat. Today we have been encouraged to walk in nature. I chose a path with no end in site ~ a well worn walkway leading to dense bushes. I begin my journey. As I walk through the plowed field, I wonder how many others had been here before me. And had they discovered where the path ended? As I walked through the dense bushes, I heard water, the soft sounds of a brook. I noticed my heart lifting and my entire body feeling lighter. As I made my way through the last branches of the path and into the clearing, there it was: the creek. Crystal clear water jumped and danced over the rocks. The sky was a brilliant blue. I smiled, feeling childlike delight and discovery.
Walking back to the meditation hall, my body feels refreshed and rejuvenated. Clothed in amazement, I take my seat once again. The bells ring softly, inviting us to this moment. The air in the meditation hall feels warm. I wonder if the afternoon temperature will allow for a swim in the cool creek water. I return to “now” and find my breath. As I sit on my cushion, I am present. Letting go of planning the afternoon in any way, I feel warm and blessed with the beauty and richness of this moment, just as it is.
We have been cultivating mindful awareness for almost three days now. In the silence of sitting, it becomes possible to be present to one’s own life, to open and be in acceptance. Pausing becomes an allay once again. In the stillness, we drop below the activity of the mind and have the opportunity of expansion, opening and being with what is.
In this moment, we don’t know what will happen next. I find myself wondering if this place of not knowing is uncomfortable for most people ~ or if there is an excitement and calm curiosity? I am aware of how deeply I “do not know”. In a flash, I see a lifetime of planning. I feel freedom in not knowing, an ease and lightness in my chest and shoulders. I am in acceptance and trust of the unfolding of things within and things without. There is no agenda of any sort. We are simply entering into this moment with full awareness and seeing what happens next.
In truth, underneath all plans, pressures and expectations, the next step awaits. It is, truly, an unknown step that hasn’t been taken by anyone. “Walker, there is no path – you make the path as you walk”, by Antonio Machado. When I am able to accept what little I know, I experience wonder at what is possible. From such a perspective, I learn new ways to live.
Trusting what happens next implies curiosity and openness. This practice recognizes the exquisiteness of uncertainty and humbles us into full attentiveness and acceptance. I notice the fluid and impermanent nature of experience in my own life. The moment I grasp onto something I wish to keep or control, I feel anxious. Breathing becomes short and high in the chest. When I remember to trust the impermanent nature of life, breathing deepens. I am no longer dominated by the chaos of change. Instead, new possibilities emerge.
Stopping and sitting in awareness, opening to what is and being in acceptance of this moment, leads to trusting the next moment as it emerges. As the mind calms down, a familiarity and comfort with the rising and falling of experience is possible. Thoughts come and go. Any plan to reach a destination would affect this simple and refined awareness practice. I decide to let go of my plan to swim in the afternoon heat. Instead, I trust the natural emergence of life as it shows up. I sit still and notice calmness. I sense the quality of surrender, of resting in the ebb and flow of experience. Both the delight and insecurity of change and of now knowing is present. And, so, we attend to the next moment and to what it will bring.
The bells ring softly announcing the midday meal. For the first time, I have no idea of what we will eat. I walk on the sunlit pathway to the dining hall.
We have explored stopping and sitting in silence, cultivating awareness and acceptance. In part two, we considered trusting “what is” and opening to life as it emerges, new in each moment. Part three will illuminate the concept of interactive meditation ~ the experience of mindful dialogue with another person.