Tuesday, June 1, 2010
The truth may be a walk around a lake
Shaver Pond, Rensselaer County, New York
"The truth may be a walk around a lake," wrote Wallace Stevens. When I need to get rid of the clutter of negative thoughts and everyday worries, there are few things better than a good long walk around a lake in the woods near my home in upstate New York. As I get back in sync with the rhythms of the natural world, I both lose myself - that is to say, my little self - and return to my deeper self.
There are several phases to a walking meditation.
As in sitting meditation, I start by paying attention to my breathing. I try not to interfere with its flow, though the most immediate effect of this refocusing of awareness is to produce longer, more regular inhalations and exhalations. My breathing changes as I set off at a faster clip across open ground. After a time, I find I am following my breath without trying to regulate its autonomic flow. When I reach the awareness that my breath is breathing me, I have already released many of the burdens I brought with me.
Now I extend my awareness into my body's movements over the rough ground. The play of light across leaves and lake water is beguiling, but it is still outside myself. I am not yet at one with it, My efforts to find stillness in gentle motion are threatened by the return of troubles and calculations that were with me before I came here. They gesture and snicker, pressing for my attention.
Separated from the natural forest by my jungle of thoughts, I focus on one thought. It rises spontaneously: I will follow the flow of light, within me and around me.
I speak a simple affirmation at the water's edge:
I give thanks for the morning. I give thanks for the day. I give thanks for the gifts and the challenges of this lifetime. I will follow the Light.
I am humming, then toning, letting the vowel sounds soar to higher and higher pitch. A song bubbles up in me, and I smile when it bursts free. I sing aloud all the way to the beaver lodge at the eastern edge of the lake, and for another mile more to the abandoned jetty on the far side. The effect of my off-key warbling is to open a space at the center of my consciousness. At its distant periphery, I can observe old images of fear and worry and confusion, looming up then falling away like blown leaves as I choose to deny them the energy of my attention and belief.
As my inner space continues to expand and deepen, I feel again, blessedly, in contact with that still small voice you know you need never question.
I celebrate and join in the sparkling beauty of the natural world around me. I breathe with the swaying branches of the evergreens. I shrug off my clothes and splash and swim in the lake. I am at one with everything around me. I could stay here all day, but words come flocking and I must go home and write.