While guiding a workshop, we fell into a deep conversation about the part of us that is constantly changed by meeting the world and the depth of who we are that never changes. The Rocky Mountains were nearby and as I began to explore all this, the wisdom of the mountains was suddenly in reach.
In the Thick of It
I'm in Estes Park, Colorado, that divine bowl in the middle of the Rockies, peaks to every side. With a small hike, I can see the town below. Then back down, in the thick of it. But for a time, the life we're in can be lived with a view from above. This is how the soul can move through the days with an awareness of all souls, how a person can trip and bump through the streets while feeling the heart of all things.
Our living center is like this peak with the sun on its face. It reminds me that the first use of the word courage meant to stand by one's core. When I lose my way, I need to climb my core to regain a more complete view of life. Like standing on this peak, it makes a difference in how I see the days. It makes a difference in the decisions I will make.
When standing by our core, we also stand by the core of all things. For it's impossible to tell where the mountain ends and the earth it rises from begins. In just this way, it's hard to know where our individual soul ends and the continent of Spirit begins. So finding the courage to climb our center refreshes who we are, because we can briefly see the totality of life we are a small part of and briefly feel the center of everything. This glimpse of Oneness and feeling of Wholeness can heal us; can give us the strength of heart and clarity of mind to continue.
Now imagine this peak -- that is our core -- is a cliff of being that faces the sea. Imagine, as the great teacher Jack Kornfield says, that waves of thought and feeling wash up on us and recede constantly. All day long, all night long, the waves of thought and feeling splash, spray, and wash against our center. We are meant to receive them, not deny them or drown in them. The entire practice of meditation and mindfulness is to help us stand in our being and let the thoughts and feelings come and go. We have no hope of eliminating the waves of thought and feeling, any more than the cliff can stop the sea from being the sea. Nor can the cliff uproot itself and go somewhere else. This is the life of every soul in human form. We are where we are: rising like a cliff out of the massive center of all being to receive our humanness like the sea. We are where we are: rising out of it, while being worn by it.
This is where we meet: our being softened and worn by our humanness. This is where relationship begins: as the sea of thoughts and feelings washes up debris from the living. This is where we make sense of our life together: leaning against our core, staring out into the sea of life, feeling the light come and go, feeling the tide of thought and feeling rise and fall. Worn by the sea of life, the smallest pebble drops from the cliff. We pick it up. We rub it in our hands and carry it for a time, until someone we love is in need. And against all logic, we place this pebble of being in their hands like a stone of light that, if kissed and held, might help us on our way.
A Question to Walk With: Describe your history with letting feelings and thoughts come and go. How would you describe your own difficulty with letting feelings and thoughts come and go? How would you describe the foundation of who you are that can't be washed away?
For more by Mark Nepo, click here.
For more Poetry for the Soul, click here.