THE BLOG
10/21/2014 12:59 pm ET Updated Dec 21, 2014

Gentleness

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Receiving depends on gentleness, which relaxes our boundaries. It lets us interact with what comes our way. It lets us lend some of our shape to what's before us. Lending our shape in this way allows for a momentary joining, through which we can feel the aliveness that flows between things. Here is a mythic example of gentleness.

Gentleness

This is the story of a blind boy who in a dream is told that bowing will open his eyes and let him see. He tries for several days to bow and open, everywhere he goes: in the grass, in the wind, in the soft hands of his mother. None of it gives him sight. He bows his face into the holiest of books, the one his father studies. Still nothing. The dream felt so real that he's now in despair, certain he's misread the gift of this instruction, certain he's lost his chance to see.

In his sadness, he wanders to the shore of a lake, where he wades to his waist. Depressed, he sits in the water. And as a child sinks in a bathtub, he holds his breath and drops into the lake, below the surface of things, below the noise of his blindness. He is surrounded by such softness and quiet that he begins to cry as the water from his eyes mixes with the water of the lake. In the slow, gentle wash of water meeting water, he begins to feel the bottom of the lake. He begins to feel the old fish swimming behind a rock. He can feel the oar in the middle of the lake slipping in and out of the cloud-reflected surface. He even feels a heron circling above, its shadow cooling pockets of the deep.

He returns to the surface and can feel the movement of air against his eyes, and the heat of the sun warming his face. From that day on, he can feel with his eyes, as long as he remembers to slip below the surface of things. And though he is blind, from that day on, he carries great vision. In time, he becomes a teacher that others seek out, and through his gentleness, others learn that whatever our blindness, the heart can sink below the noise of its memories and wounds. The sweet blind boy tells everyone who asks that the heart wakes slowly, and only our gentleness -- our willingness to sink into the depth of things and wait -- will let us see and make our way.

A Question to Walk With: What is your relationship to gentleness and how does it show up?

For more poetry for the soul, click here.

For more by Mark Nepo, click here.