Just Thinking

I am rereading “When Things Fall Apart, Heart Advice for Difficult Times” by Pema Chodron.  Although nothing is falling apart in a dramatic way, nor am I going through a difficult time, I began the book again as the result of simply dusting.  I picked up the book and began to flip through it as I recalled it was helpful at a previous juncture in my life and that there is mention of mindfulness and meditation which have captured my interest of late.  I had highlighted one of the pieces of advice to help with the meditative process of emptying the mind and becoming fully present in the moment which is to catch oneself when a thought creeps in with the phrase, “just thinking”.

The point is that thoughts are not reality, but are just thinking.  That we might change them into something concrete, through analysis and planning, no doubt.  But in the moment they are nothing more and nothing less than just thinking.  So often that thinking is worrying or trying to come up with a solution to a perceived problem that may in fact exist only in thought.  Staying focused and centered in the moment requires turning off the internal chatter, letting go of the notion of control, and yes, letting things fall apart.

Falling apart is what happens, it is how life works.  In all manner of things, falling apart and coming back together is the cycle of life.  In my garden the items in the compost bin are falling apart, only to come back together as compost to give new life and energy to the soil growing my vegetables.  Once harvested, the spent plants and trimmings return to the compost bin to start the cycle anew.  It is the same with our lives.  Some things become spent and yet do not disappear, they take on a new and different value in our lives.  Perhaps the spent bit; a relationship, a job, an old stomping ground; will nourish us for the next round of these things.  But to try to hang on to last year’s tomato plant in the hopes it will produce again next year is not only folly but denies the garden the nutrients needed to grow and prosper in the future.

Our “thinking” is a way of trying to hang on to what is spent, attempting to pull the past forward into the present.  “Being” is difficult in a society so invested in intellect and thought.  Yet in those moments of just being, mindful of one’s surroundings and senses we rediscover time and again, our true selves.  As I dig one shovelful after another of rocks large and small, untangle the grass and weed roots from the dirt, I can let myself and my thinking drift away and only be aware of the hot sun on my back, the strength in my legs and arms as I work, marveling at the earthworms in the rocky sandy dirt that will someday be soil.  The state of grace of just being in the world instead of feeling batted about by a torrent of thoughts that I came to associate with being “me” is profound and enriching.

Finding this center, this quiet place, requires a realignment of habit.  Turning off the internal chatter to connect with the moment takes practice and constant reminder.  The mantra, when one finds themselves becoming enmeshed in a problem to which there is no solution, pulling thoughts from here and there to create a different reality, is “just thinking”.  And adding the further reminder that thoughts are not real, can bring one back to mindfulness of the present and grounded in the peaceful knowledge that everything is changing all the time, falling apart and coming back together, and while we are a part of the process, our only responsibility is to notice.

Wisdom

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” ~ Saint Augustine

I have tried to imagine the face of wisdom.  The image I see is a person of enormous calm and reserve, taking in everything, yet slow to offer comment.  Storing knowledge and experience for later use with caution and proper timing, the wise being of my imagination uses their experience to facilitate foresight and takes time to carefully consider consequences.  Taking mindfulness out of time and space and placing oneself in the past, the present and the future to see most clearly.

This is a patient person, waiting watchfully for events to unfold; unhurried by the immediate demands with an eye to the overarching impact of an action.  Words chosen with consideration and mindful of their impact, my imagined sage sees time as its companion and equal, not driving the moment but walking in unison. With measured thoughts and words, comes insight.  Learning from each experience, the knowing among us carefully build understanding and exercise a judicious habit of action.

Developing a way about us that allows wisdom to evolve requires slowing in all things.  Observing and listening, contemplating and considering, holding a thought until it can be examined with care before acting; all change the pace and the results.  Practice editing by speaking little and absorbing more.  Build up patience to give an idea chance to mature.

Wisdom comes not with age, but from a way of being.  Stillness and silence gives wisdom a garden in which to grow, whether you are 18 or 81.  Quiet your heart, quiet your mind and let the wisdom around you take root and flourish.

Silence

After the roaring windstorm of yesterday afternoon, this morning there is a steady light snow that muffles any sound.  The birds are tucked away keeping warm, and the deer move quietly as they browse for breakfast.

Either my mood matches the day or my spirit is one with the world outside my door, but today is a quiet day for me as well.  One of the things I love most about living here is the silence.  There are times when the house is so quiet that I can hear the ticking of the stovepipe warming and cooling.  When I step outside the only sound is the slight crunch under foot with each step.  It is not just the lack of sound but the stillness solid as the mountains rising up behind me. There is such serenity in silence, the deep quiet of the woods translates to a deep quietness in my soul.

This is a piece of the puzzle I have not appreciated enough, I think.  Feeling joy, elation, excitement, enthusiasm, all have great value in the inner life of a truly happy person; but the deep resonations of a quietude are the fine covering overlaying the joyful noise that allow me to appreciate all moments and incorporate each into a way of being.  Silence is more soothing than the gentlest lullaby.  Today I will cherish the silence.