sometimes the tiny
gifts of nature help create
slow down – close your eyes
for ten seconds – then name the
colours you might paint
The songs of small birds fade away
into the bushes after sundown,
the air dry, sweet with goldenrod.
Beside the path, suddenly, bright asters
flare in the dusk. The aged voices
of a few crickets thread the silence.
It is a quiet I love, though my life
too often drives me through it deaf.
Busy with costs and losses, I waste
the time I have to be here—a time
blessed beyond my deserts, as I know,
if only I would keep aware. The leaves
rest in the air, perfectly still.
I would like them to rest in my mind
as still, as simply spaced. As I approach,
the sorrel filly looks up from her grazing,
poised there, light on the slope
as a young apple tree. A week ago
I took her away to sell, and failed
to get my price, and brought her home
again. Now in the quiet I stand
and look at her a long time, glad
to have recovered what is lost
in the exchange of something for money.
The Sorrel Filly, Collected Poems: 1957-1982
What is to be done after a reading of Wendell Berry? A walk outdoors as soon as possible. And if the poem has been feasted upon in early evening then a sunset walk will probably be necessary – with a camera close to expectant hearts.
And so it was … and tonight we did ‘stand / … glad to have recovered what is lost.’ And though these images are written well enough upon the aforementioned hearts, still the photographs, the written record, will remind us, over time, to stand … glad, again and again and again. Awed.
Responding to tonight’s tragedy, Berlin Police requested via Twitter that streets be kept clear for emergency services and that people ‘do not spread rumours.’ Good counsel. For as though the incident is not tragic enough, some of the stories we rehearse in our heads are worse.
Tittle-tattle poisons. Abetted by constant media chatter, swept along by an inchoate racket, we struggle with disconnected stories we tell ourselves. Fearful, we know we are living under par and seek quick answers. For the umpteenth time, we imagine apocalypse come upon us.
We must learn to quiet our rumours. Enter the universal gift of meditation – stilling over-active ‘monkey’ minds. Mental chatter is often no more than unconscious shrieking – ungoverned swinging from one thought-branch to another. Conscious observation is required.
Meditation to the rescue! As we learn simply to observe the fantastic tales authored in our heads, we equip ourselves to deal with the actual stories of life. Quietly watching the ticker tape of thoughts that do not require reaction or response preserves energy for those that do.
Meditation trains us in the practice of discernment. Imagined stories teach our brains to live in life’s real stories – but it is only the actual ones we need to act upon, not the ticking ticker tape. We are not required to know, still less to act upon teacher’s passing thoughts on her way to class.
We need not waste energy with rumour. Meditation keeps mental streets clear so that we deal better with real life. Anyone, anywhere, here and now. Universal – neither guru nor joining fee required – meditation affords the gift of quiet consciousness, and befriends it.