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Walking in the Mountains in the Rain

Similar to our emotions, the weather moves through quickly like a cloudburst. When we pay attention and grow mindful, we sense changes around us and ones further away.

I sense Wang Wei proposes a there are benefits that occur in occasional changes in our immediate surroundings. Those changes mute distant sounds and other stimuli that intrude. Whether it is outside or inside us, the impending storm signals we need to find shelter and take stock of what is happening.

Perhaps through our questions and wonder we awaken and become aware of the world. What happens further downstream from us? What is happening out at sea? What do our emotions mean to the immediate world and the larger world we experience and share? What does it mean to lead, teach, and learn in this world?

In this quick cloudburst
air thickens, the sky comes down

dark mountains
flashes of lightning

out at sea new clouds
have just started to form
and this small brook I straddle
is a river in flood somewhere

rags and blankets of mist
hang on these slopes and cliffs

then the clouds open and vanish
rain patters off
and moonlight silvers
that whole reach of river
foothills to ocean

and even from this black mountain
I can hear boatmen singing.

Seeing, Up Close Again

When we are mindful, we experience the immense detail of the ordinary world. It is a sensuous and intoxicating affair. We take the world and all its detail in through each of our senses.

Joyce Sutphen reminds us that, when we experience the immense detail of the ordinary world, we are like Gulliver in a world we have not experienced before. We have, but living at a breakneck speed can deny us the full, embodied richness of the experience.

When we slow down, we see the world and its detail fully. Seeing is the default sense we experience, but I think as we slow down  we more fully experience the world and all its details through all of our senses.

The world and we become richer a richer tapestry textured with the fullness of previously undetectable tastes, fragrances, traces upon skin, and gentle murmurs. Similar to the small child, the world and all its detail are fresh and new. We see, again and nothing is too small for our notice.

Like Gulliver in Brobdingnag, I
swooned to see again the immense
detail of the ordinary world:

the rippling surface of a fingernail,
exactly the color of a horn erupting
through the swirled-hair head of a calf,

the flayed landscape of skin where
catgut, pressing into the finger’s
tip, made a ragged canyon,

the beaten sheen of a silver ring
around the pillared finger,
dark-tarnished runes

in its patterned crevices.
Nothing was too tiny for
my hungry eye,

nothing too finely etched.
I had grown weary of smooth
honed perfection, perceived from

a distance. Now, even the smallest
stroke of ink on paper was
deep enough to fold me in.

when the animals

Gary Lawless suggests that the world, as a living being, and its inhabitants speak to us, asking for help. Do we listen?

I told the boys, as they grew up, that listening and hearing are different. We hear, but, without listening, what we hear disappears immediately. In the busyness and rush of daily living, it is hard and sometimes impossible to be mindful and attentive.

When we sense the world, other humans, animals, and plants come alive for us and give the world continuously new meaning.

In yesterday’s post, Every Movement, I wrote about creating never being completed. It becomes an infinite event that  continuously occurs and calls for us to be wakeful even in our dreams. Creation sings in a delicate, beautiful language that we share with the world and its inhabitants.

When we recognize Creation as a continuous event, our hearts open up and we become one with the rest of Creation, able to help.

When the animals come to us

     asking for our help,

     will we know what they are saying?

When the plants speak to us

     in their delicate, beautiful language,

     will we be able to answer them?

When the planet herself

     sings to us in our dreams,

     will we be able to wake ourselves, and act?

Every Movement

The philosopher and Talmudic scholar Emmanuel Levinas proposed that events are ongoing and remain incomplete, including creation as an event. In a sense, God’s creating is never completed.

Hafiz suggests something similar when it comes to understanding God’s work. It is a movement, an event. I find it easy to say no without pausing and being attentive. What does this mean? Am I able to understand its meaning at this time?

There is little patience in waiting for the luminous movement of existence. Quite often, we want something and set forward in a singular way captivated by the thoughts of that might mean as if living is done in moments. When we are patient, mindful, and attentive, the luminous movements appear at the most unexpected times that cannot be measured and described in any complete way.

I rarely let the word “No” escape
From my mouth
Because it is plain to my soul
That God has shouted “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
To every luminous movement in existence.

One Hundred and Eighty Degrees

As I read the opening lines to this poem, I realized I often hold on to thoughts as if they are real. They give me a false sense of certainty that the world and others are  controllable and manageable. I wed myself to my thoughts. They become lonely and serve as my reality.

What if I turned 180 degrees and understood what I believe is not right? In that sense, I become another person who, if he continues to turn, experiences the world differently and anew at each turn.

Frederico Moramarco challenges me to think in different terms and treat thoughts as phantoms that drift in and out of my mind. They are not real and really there as they float away like wisps of smoke on a breeze.

When I am mindful and attentive to the world and others, I take steps and my thoughts do not control me, my words, and actions. I become comfortable with the uncertainty and unpredictability always surrounding me.

Have you considered the possibility
that everything you believe is wrong,
not merely off a bit, but totally wrong,
nothing like things as they really are?
If you’ve done this, you know how durably fragile
those phantoms we hold in our heads are,
those wisps of thought that people die and kill for,
betray lovers for, give up lifelong friendships for.
If you’ve not done this, you probably don’t understand this poem,
or think it’s not even a poem, but a bit of opaque nonsense,
occupying too much of your day’s time,
so you probably should stop reading it here, now.
But if you’ve arrived at this line,
maybe, just maybe, you’re open to that possibility,
the possibility of being absolutely completely wrong,
about everything that matters.
How different the world seems then:
everyone who was your enemy is your friend,
everything you hated, you now love,
and everything you love slips through your fingers like sand.

Praying

Mary Oliver writes wonderful, often short, poetry and this poem is no exception. The small and overlooked things in nature seem to call to her so she can share their words with the world.

When we just pay attention, we notice people and things that we might overlook in our haste to move through the world and our days. Praying is a doorway, not a contest. Prayer calls upon each of us to listen and give thanks for the world and its gifts. It is in those mindful and attentive moments that the world speaks to us and it is in silence that we hear its words.

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

We need a renaissance of wonder.

“We need a renaissance of wonder. We need to renew, in our hearts and in our souls, the deathless dream, the eternal poetry, the perennial sense that life is miracle and magic”   E. Merrill Root

Source: We need a renaissance of wonder.

Tonight, I attended a dinner meeting and a recent PhD graduate presented the summary of her thesis. She used the word magic in her findings. She suggested in academia there are those who do not like that word, but it allows us to communicate with each other. When words elude us, there is something intuitive that sparks a sense of wonder and touches a person’s soul as we communicate with each other. John Dewey suggested that when we live in community we communicate and make what we value common.

Magic doesn’t fit well when we seek certainty, but the world is a magical place. When we see the snow-and tree-covered mountains in the linked post, we may not have  words to describe what we see. Moreover, we lack words to describe what we cannot see.

Quite a few years ago, we went fishing at Quesnel Lake which is a remote glacial lake in British Columbia that in some spots is almost 2000 feet deep. At one end of the lake, there are waterfalls, aptly named Niagara Falls, which cascade about 100 feet almost directly into the lake. We talked and tried to decide the source: a glacier, a lake, a spring. etc.

We anchored the boat and climbed to the top, hoping to see where the river came from. When we arrived at the top we saw the stream appeared to flow from a distant mountain, but we did not see the source. What we did experience was a spectacular view. There was something magical and wonderful (full of wonder) in that moment which overflowed with meaning for each of us.

Regardless of the source of the river and the waterfalls, each person present had a different understanding and description of that moment’s experience. Despite different descriptions, we  shared the same experience. When we described the view, we had different descriptions, which were understood by all of us who shared that experience. There was something magical and wonderful in that moment.

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