Reflections from a long and powerful meditation on the waterfront in Queenstown, New Zealand.
A tree is the ultimate teacher in the practice of meditation. A tree spends its existence sitting in its own silence, even amidst the noise and chaos that surrounds it. In contact with the earth at all times, it excels at stillness, only its branches, like hair, blowing in the wind. It never ceases to breathe -- it exists to breathe -- taking in carbon dioxide and exhaling the oxygen that is required for our life. In this way, the tree exists in a state of giving, whatever the world requires for joy and life: oxygen, shade, shelter, wood, recreation.
It doesn't question its purpose on earth, to provide these things, It doesn't stop breathing, being. It doesn't open eyes to gaze out at the chaos with any sense of judgement. It sits, rooted in the earth, and breathes -- even when the bees swarm, the rain falls, the children climb, the young woman leans against its trunk to read. In silence, it sits and breathes, never ceasing its powerful meditation. In this stillness, this silence, it exudes life; it emits from it energy, smells, colors, soft rustling, fresh air, in which all those in witness rejoice. The tree is respected, revered, a subject of dreams and poetry, though it has never spoken a word. The tree will exist in this state of joyous nirvana until a power greater than it ends its life.
If you want to meditate but are struggling to find your own silence in the midst of life's chaos, try sitting beneath a tree. Gaze upon it and extend to it a thanks for its life-sustaining gifts and deep wisdom. And then join in its meditation, Close your eyes and breathe along with the tree, focusing on your constant exchange of oxygen for carbon dioxide, rejoicing in the symbiotic nature of your relationship -- the pattern of giving and receiving that underlies every moment of our lives. In contact with the earth, perhaps even the roots of this tree, sink deeper into this feeling of security. Feel as the breeze blows your hair along with the branches of the tree, or note how its absence leaves you both in total stillness. Embody the tree, with every sound and other reminder of the external chaos, sink deeper into your internal silence, your stillness. Know that, like the tree, you are a beautiful component of the landscape, emitting energy to any form of life that may surround you.
This is your purpose, and you fulfill it with ease. There is no need to open your eyes now, for in your internal stillness, you bear witness to the entire cosmos; you are the cosmos. In this knowing, you are filled with a sense of bliss and exist only to breathe. Oxygen in -- thanking the tree -- and carbon dioxide out, returning the gift of life. You have found balance, a state that always exists within you. You and the tree are one, mirrored parts of the same life force. You exist in this state of joyous nirvana for as long as you please. You are free, you are the tree.
You skipped like stones along the whites of my bones, sunk down where they're hollow (except for you). Walking along the beach, every creak of my knees, I hear you calling. One, two, three...to nine! I never skipped like that before. Nobody here to see. But I know you know, down in my bones -- with a flash of my teeth, you show me.
I skipped all the round ones, the flat ones, the light but misshapen ones. All the blue ones, then the green ones, and the black ones with white spots. Rust-colored, marbled; heavy and smooth -- those always seem to fly the farthest. All the stones from the beach and the stones from the shore until deep beneath the water, I couldn't see them anymore. I wonder how long before they find their way home, and will they be the same? Or will the rough ones come back smooth and the black ones gray; the round ones flat and the green ones blue; the heavy and misshapen ones broken in two? Slowly, coldly, lapped back upon the shore, left to wonder if the stones they are now are the stones they were before.
He was a proficient skipper, no less than four, with a technique that contributed to my learning. Something in his eyes said, 'Shoot from the hip,' while his mouth just smiled. We shared a hug, no handshake, with fists full of stones. He motioned toward the shore where just yesterday I had evacuated all the stones. I smiled and pointed the other way, not ready to see if they had yet returned and if so, what condition the journey left them in. He stayed, and I wandered on, skipping stones in his direction.
It that all it takes? One breath of this outside air, exhaled toward the rising horizon. To the blue on blue monsters from which I can't avert my eyes. Will they watch me while I'm sleeping? I can't go home now, the sky is leaking, and I sense the road is perilous, for one. Breakfast for one, lunch for one, table for two. The trees that line the beach build a home for my single occupation. Now everybody looks my way -- black on black as night, they watch me breathing, every inhale deepening, and say: Isn't that strange? Or nothing at all, it's always nothing at all. Drop my eyes to stones the color of sky and wonder how they got there. Pile them up and put the towers in my pockets, it keeps me on the ground. Not good for swimming, but I like the clacking sound as I skip around. Then? Moment after moment for me to fill with anything. Rest my eyes on the snowless peaks and wonder how it would feel to share them. Dinner for one, no dessert. The world is sweet as it is, any more would make my heart hurt.
This is a piece I wrote back in college. Rediscovered, tidied up and given some love! It's always been a story that I remembered writing but it's been many years since I've read it (9 years?!) I think it's one of my favorite pieces to this day. Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoy.
Donninger wore sunglasses as big as his head, bigger than his nose and elbows put together. It was like he was preparing for the sun to drop down from outer space to say hello, and he wanted to be able to look it in the eye when it did. The frames were silver, like the wings of an exotic bat and the lenses flashed blue then green then red as if they were reflecting the Christmas lights tacked to Jeffrey’s mother’s windows, the ones that lit up even in June and July.
It was July, in fact, on this day, when he wore his sunglasses, fly-like eyes scanning the beach for his beautiful babe. He knew he would find her here, because they were all beautiful in their strappy bathing suits and fresh skin, gleaming with oils and sprinkled with sea salt. But they weren’t all his, unfortunately. And it was his loss, not theirs, he knew this. They weren’t missing anything not having him in their lives, because there wasn’t much to him that one would like besides his big silver specks.
He didn’t have a real voice, and he didn’t have hairs on his chest. He gleamed in the sun, but it wasn’t oil on his skin, because he didn’t have skin either. He didn’t have a liver or toe nails. He had never experienced the strange sensation of vomiting, because he didn’t have a stomach and he didn’t eat. He never went to college, because he didn’t need to. All of the data he could ever want to know or need to know or could ever dream of knowing was born with him. Jeffrey had put it there.
This is a blog post that I wrote for the fabulous folks at Dreamfarm Arts-Eco Village, a center for arts, education and eco living in southern Tasmania's Huon Valley. I had the privilege of staying here for a week and the honor of being the first writer in their creative residency program. It was a much needed escape from the hectic backpacker life and incredible setting to sit down and put some serious work time into my book project. Read on about my experience at this emerging powerhouse for creatives, and check them out online!
"As a writer, aspiring novelist, and creator of things in general (business cards pending), I’ve spent much of my life dreaming about an elusive set of “perfect conditions” — the circumstances that would allow me to realize my full artistic potential, pumping out volumes of written work with ease, painting the world’s next great masterpiece in a single, sunny afternoon. (Creatives are an idealist bunch sometimes, aren’t they?)
Surely, if I could just remove the stress of work and financial obligations, free my time to do nothing but create, distance myself from technology and other distractions, throw myself into nature, out in the middle of nowhere — then, finally, I could access an infinite stream of creativity and inspiration, one that would allow me to produce the art that lies dormant in me. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I was sure it could be done..."
Click here to read the rest of the post on the Dreamfarm website, and check out their Facebook page!
Find the fire --
The flickering of life
In the pit of your gut;
And even though it will
Burn the dry, dead earth
Beneath your feet,
Fan the flames --
Watch them clear the way
For the emergence of
New life out of ashes.
Withstand the heat against
Your face and
Feel as — drip, drip --
Water with sweat,
With tears of submission,
A garden, a field, a forest
Born of your potential
Of your faith
Of your courage to say:
Yes, I am driven
Yes, I am the driver
Yes, I will live
A life that honors
The divinity in me,
That reignites the embers
Of exploding stars
That have propelled me
Into my very existence.
Chicago-born citizen of the globe, rich in the things that really matter. Let's get weird.