“One year ago I decided to lay down my sword and accept my anger’s presence. If I see it clearly, then I cannot follow it blindly.”
This time last year I was on a silent retreat in Upstate New York in the Finger Lakes region. The trip, a long-awaited gift to myself, unfolded in ways I still struggle to find the words to describe. My experience included sixteen hours of driving by myself and seven days of silence with twenty-two people from around the globe. I touched on something while there, within and outside of myself, that has forever altered the course of my life in seen and unseen ways.
During the week we had over 200 acres of rolling open and wooded spaces to explore. I frequented a rushing creek swelled with recent rain waters, tucked in between sharp slopes of land, covered in wet sepia toned leaves and ridges of sedimentary rock. Pleasantly disentangled from time or expectation I sat and sometimes stood to watch this water play.
All of us are drawn to nature. We stare at water, gaze into fire, sunsets and pristine landscapes. It is in our nature, when in nature, to observe and not be so attached to a particular outcome. Thoughts like “Oh, if only that leaf would fall here”, or “if only this sunset could be a little less orangey” are not likely. We simply accept nature as it is, and in doing so, we are present with it and with ourselves at the same time. As I stood at the creek’s edge I watched how the water moved through, around, under and over rock, fallen branches and water itself. It was calming and deeply moving and, as if for the first time, I noticed how the eddies circle and churn like my own life, or not even my life, but life itself. I related to the circling and churning and what it meant to me; how I sometimes lose sight of big water and strong currents. I recalled the times I am happiest, or at least contented. It is when I am allowing and trusting the currents of my life, like water, as they move through the landscape of my life.
I wondered then, as I still do now, what in my life symbolizes the rocks and fallen timber? I could call them obstacles, but is that really true? Or am I just naming them “obstacles” and in doing so, behaving accordingly? Are there really any obstacles at all? This struck me as very funny at the time and I laughed at myself out loud and with myself and with life itself. A weight had been lifted with the humor of self-realization while standing by myself in that wooded slice of heaven. There is no such thing as “stuck” even for a moment. All is well. All is really well. I touched on this and felt peace. Several Wisdom Keeper’s have taught me about this kind of experience and a little bit more about how to encourage it.
I am not enlightened. My practice of cultivating inner peace extends like fragile fibers throughout my life, but it has successfully wrapped itself around strong, small kernels of anger that remain. Like the anger I carry towards a society that pillages its elders and provides the most vulnerable among us with inadequate and dispassionate care and support. On retreat I recognized my anger; I saw it. The part of me that saw the anger was even angry. In silence I listened to what it was saying and I was able to recognize it as a companion for the first time and, to my surprise, as a teacher.
One year ago I decided to lay down my sword and accept my anger’s presence. If I see it clearly then I cannot follow it blindly. I can acknowledge its arrival when it checks in and return my focus and intention to the work of compassion and service. For me, at this time, service is doing what I can to participate in a solution and pay close attention to the elders I meet and carry their wisdom forward to the next generation. This is my gratitude and my Thanksgiving wish. Hug your families, your parents and if you are fortunate to have them in your life, your grandparents. Hug them and love them just as they are.