“When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”
Fear. Anxiety. Despair.
Have you been feeling any of these recently? I’ve seen and heard enough in everyday life and in the news encouraging and exacerbating these emotions lately. And it’s all too easy for me to numb these feelings out by getting busy and staying busy.
So I went on a much anticipated two week vacation to California, where I could slow down and immerse myself in nature and spend time with loved ones. A time to get away from doing and enjoy being.
And it was amazing how I could exchange busy-at-work with busy-at-vacationing.
Driving from one place to another, hiking this trail and that, photographing this fantastic scene and then the next, and then the next. Loving every minute of it, and exhausted at the end of every day.
Still, in the background it was there. Fear. Anxiety. Despair. Would I make my plane? Would my daughter get lost on her way to meet us? Would our car careen over the edge of the cliff on the narrow, winding coastal roads? Would a bear surprise me on a walk outside alone at night in the Sierra Nevada Mountains? Will the political election not turn out to my liking, causing life as I know it to be ruined forever? (Yes, even far removed from civilization, politics could still creep into my thoughts and onto my television screen.)
One of the gifts of the Pathwork teachings is that it has raised my awareness about the background noise in my head. I am better about spotting the ways in which I engage in defending against my desire to control my surroundings and the underlying fear of the powerlessness inherent in being human.
And with that awareness I can make a different choice.
So somewhere on a relatively remote trail in Sequoia National Park, amidst the magnificence and grandeur of these sacred trees, we stopped, sat down and leaned up against a giant Sequoia, and just listened to the forest. I tuned into the powerfully grounded energy of these wise beings, the soft sunlight piercing through the forest canopy, the light breeze caressing my face, and the faint sound of a squirrel or chipmunk scurrying across the forest floor.
As Wendell Berry so eloquently says, I rested in the grace of the world, and was free.
These ancient Sequoia trees have survived thousands of years of sunshine and rain, drought and fire, insects and disease, and yes, political administration after political administration. And sunrise after sunrise, season after season, they continue to hold everything in their experience with equanimity. They are great teachers.
I am reminded that I can see everything, without really seeing anything at all. Until I stop, get quiet, and experience the deeper level of reality, I can never know the peace that is always here, in all circumstances. Without a connection to that ever present peace, I will live with an existential sense of fear and anxiety, even when outside circumstances don’t warrant it.
I am grateful for the Pathwork teachings, for they have taught me how to access that deeper level of reality. As I have become aware of all the obstacles I have erected that separate me from that reality, I have learned that I have a choice. I can return anytime I want.
But sometimes, I need the trees to remind me.
How do you access that peace that underlies all fear? Feel free to share your comments below!
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