So far this week I’ve struggled to follow through with what I’d hoped to achieve. I’m off my usual rhythm and it’s been a little bit rough, so I decided to take the afternoon to spend some time in nature.
I parked at a nearby canal and followed the towpath for a little while. Behind the towpath is another trail, and behind that trail is a narrow strip of woods. I made my way through those woods to find the river, the same one which feeds into the canal many miles south of here. Standing at the edge of the woods, I descended a short cliff down to the bank of the river and squatted upon a split tree that was lying parallel to the ground.
Looking to the horizon, the sky was stone gray. There was a subtle but still perceptible milky haze shrouding everything. It was quiet and calming. Most of the trees have dropped their leaves by now but many shrubs and bushes still cling to sparse green leaves which dot the coastline and contrast strongly against the brown and black tints of the trees and ground. The landscape was alive with critters that I could hear but not see. There were lots of squeaky chipmunks and squirrels whose rummaging was made obvious by their patter over the dried leaves which blanketed the ground.
There is a unique beauty this time of year. It’s not like the spring, not like the summer, nor is it like the early fall or even the winter. I lament the end of the warm weather but I’m ready to embrace what’s coming next. I’m starting to find the rhythm now as we’ve made this sudden transition from sunny 70℉ last week to the gray 30s today.
Often in life we find ourselves thrust into sudden change. We can easily be thrown off balance, especially because we tend to notice only what’s been lost in the transition. Where’s the warmth, the sunshine, the lively scenery we’ve become accustomed to?
When we exercise our patience and observe objectively, we will inevitably begin to notice what is new that comes forth. It may not be what we expected or hoped for, but if we can find a way to let go of those expectations, it can be enough. In fact, it can be more than enough. We can find a silver lining that if we trace far enough turns into a brilliant ribbon. Hoisting this ribbon into the sky and watching it wave reminds us of what is most important. It’s not what we’ve gained nor is it not what we’ve lost. It’s what is always available to us as long as we are breathing: This present moment and our experience of it. The one which we chronically lose track of and take for granted. The one which we make subservient to our regrets about what has happened before and our hopes about what we will achieve next. This moment. The only one in which we have to live.
Even as we come to awareness in this moment, we inevitably lose it the next. But that doesn’t matter because every moment we come back is a moment to rejoice. In this awareness there is everything: The warmth and the cold, the shining sun and the sun obscured by the clouds, the abundance of life and the dearth of it. Here is where we find our most authentic self, beyond ego, knowing that we are part of and intimately interconnected with a universal ecology.
In this moment of awareness we are centered and balanced. We are ready for the next transition, whatever that may be. We are home and we know that we always have been.
“True mastery transcends any particular art. It stems from mastery of oneself–the ability, developed through self-discipline, to be calm, fully aware, and completely in tune with oneself and the surroundings. Then, and only then, can a person know himself.”
— Bruce Lee