24 February 2016
Stillness is not about focusing on nothingness; it’s about creating a clearing. It’s opening up an emotionally clutter-free space and allowing ourselves to feel and think and dream and question. ~Brené Brown
On the way back from the mailbox, I stooped to pull a few weeds. My mind was full, occupied with the people I care for, the things happening in their lives and the afternoon schedule ahead of me. In that minute, the faint call of a sandhill crane pierced my thoughts.
The sound is unmistakable; a soft warble, a trill that turns the sky into a vast enchanting realm. I stood and brought my gaze up in search of the birds’ long slender forms, but all I could see was blue sky and bright glare. The lilting calls intensified, growing in number and volume. It was a good-sized flock, neither overhead nor too distant, but with a hand shielding my eyes against the light, I still could not spot them.
Instead of marching ahead with my schedule, I closed my eyes. The sun was warm. My shoulders eased and breath deepened. I suddenly noticed how the air was awash with spring — with the lush songs of various birds, the hum of bees darting between flowers, the heady scent of the daphne in lavish bloom. The moment doused me. Nothing was required but to yield, like the soft moist earth beneath my feet, and receive this baptism.
It is not often that I let myself, much less encourage myself, to simply open up and receive. I am biased toward action. Toward mending, tending, working, working out, trying, trying harder.
It’s a way of coping. With what I see as the reality of what needs to be done. With the feeling of not being enough. With uncertainty. There’s value in this strategy. Things do get done. I do feel better. But, eventually, it all adds up to over-doing.
I can be so occupied with forward-ho! that I miss all sorts of things—meaning, humor, affection. But perhaps the biggest miss is that with my bias toward activity I brush right past what lies beside the path, the extent of the world beyond my feet. I overlook and underestimate the magic of opening up and being receptive. Of heightening my senses, thinning my skin, and tuning in to what lays at the edges of structure and consciousness.
Because there’s wisdom there, alive and vital. An intertwining cosmos of awareness that operates beyond quantifiable accounting.
All around me, while I push forward on the path to get there, is ineffable mystery. With a gentle expansion of awareness, I find a place where instead of me racing after life, life wends its way to me. The source of creativity abides here. Emotions and healing have space here. There is a quiet from which answers arise. A stillness from which peace descends.
We understand so much about how the world works. And, simultaneously, we understand so little. Is the crane’s warble chatter or celebration? How do they navigate their annual journeys? What do we understand of what the cranes know?
When I open up to the world’s scope and grandeur, I recognize I don’t know all the answers. I see that the world is not black and white, but a zillion hues and shades. There is wisdom at the edges of my awareness. A large and fertile territory where I need only show up, let go of my load and allow my senses room to wander and roam.
When I opened my eyes, I saw the flock. They circled above my house, gathering, their backs flashing silver. Then, they spiraled loose into delicate vees arrowing north. I watched them out of sight, wishing them safe journey and return.