Monday, October 26, 2009
It's been a cool, wet fall here in Minnesota. This following nearly two months of drought. We had our first frost in early October, not unheard of, but definitely not the norm. The trees have definitely seemed confused, some of them continuing to hold their green leaves, while others shed the same green leaves weeks ago. There have been wonderful displays of bright yellows, oranges, and reds, and yet it's difficult to ignore the ways in which weather patterns are off.
I've noticed how I have also become more in-tune with similar patterns of joy and "offness" in my life. Yesterday afternoon, as I contemplated writing a post, an old acquaintance sat down next to me in the coffee shop I was writing in. This is someone who loves to talk sports, and not much else. Once he gets going, he's going to eat up 45 minutes at least, unless you leave or deliberately say "I have work to do." In addition, he's one of those guys who listens poorly, and is mostly looking for an audience for his ideas about team X or player Y. I felt myself tensing up, and thinking of ways to avoid a conversation. I kept my face to the computer and avoiding eye contact, as I heard his feet clicking against the floor and papers shuffling between his hands. My mind wandered, and I began surfing websites, and checking e-mail. In an effort to avoid him, I lost my original purpose of writing a blog post. It was then that he said, "Hey Nate, how's it going?" And I responded simply, "Busy, very busy." What's funny is that, even though it wasn't the kind of busy he assumed (he thought I was working on lesson plans for class), it was no lie. My mind was very busy creating stories, and fighting those stories with more stories. Meanwhile, he seemed to be ok with me "being busy," and went back to whatever he was doing. I laughed to myself about it all, seeing how silly the whole thing was.
Thich Nhat Hanh talks about how when things are off, we have poor circulation. Getting caught up in storylines blocks the natural flow of our lives, and takes us away from experiencing what actually is. Instead of saying something like "I'm trying to write now," and leaving it at that, I held tightly to the green leaves of before my old acquaintance came in, wishing that I could keep that space where no one would bother me. What good was it though? It was merely an attempt to stop activity, as master Sengcan said, with the predictable result of filling me with activity.
When I pulled a muscle in my back last week, and couldn't move without pain for most of the afternoon, it was natural to return to the breath. Breathing in, I felt both the pain in my body and also the greater sense of things functioning together within me and all around me. Unable to do a whole lot, I simply stayed with the movements that didn't require any effort on my part. This was quite different from all the efforting that occurred in the coffee shop yesterday - and yet, even in the mistakes, there was a space for learning about circulation.
It makes me think that our lives are similar to trees adapting to the weather. Sometimes, what's around us is easy to work with, and we are able to flow with it. Other times, conditions around us are more difficult, or is perceived to be more difficult, and the flowing isn't so smooth. We cling, push away, jump around a bit. But eventually, if we remember that the flow of life is still there to tap into, we release our old leaves and slide back into things as they are.
Posted by Nathan at 7:30 AM