I used to walk or bike very frequently on the path along the Schuylkill River on Kelly Drive in Philadelphia. Usually, I did this activity in the early mornings. After a long hiatus, I recently decided to go for one of these long walks on the early morning of Thursday, May 26.
It was a beautiful morning. The night was collecting the last of its arsenal of irregular grey patches scattered over the sky, and the morning sun's rays were shining as if the sun's gentle fingers had started playing santoor (a South Asian string instrument). The musical notes were rays of mingling orange, red and yellow colors, slowly being awakened by the gentle wind, giving it the ambience of an Indian bride wrapped in an ornamented red and orange scarf (chunni). The building and structures were coming out of the dark, rediscovering what had changed over the night.
The orchestra's maestro, the sun, gave a cue to the birds, who performed scales of their liking. I thought about the trees: magnificent pillars who provide the oxygen of life for this beautiful planet while simultaneously exchanging nutrition with a range of different species. The inspirational morning gave way for me to consider the interconnectedness of nature and how all beings - birds, trees, rivers - by their innate actions are connecting with the sublime. We are not alone, but rather part of nature, serving as connections and custodians. In the words of poet David Whyte:
Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden transgressions...
Put down your aloneness and ease into
All the birds and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.
Being able to truly listen is an integral piece of connecting with everything around us and taking advantage of everything that is waiting for us. The first Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Nanak Dev Ji, shares the benefits of deep listening when he says "Gaviye Suniye Mun Rakhiye Bhau; Dukh Parhar Sukh Ghar Lai Jaye" (Japji Sahib, Pauri 5). Here, Guru Ji is telling us that by singing and listening from the heart, we bring joy and bliss into our lives.
The ability to truly listen is not an easy task. It requires a transcendent state of mind and the ability to move pass the clutter of mind that takes up our energy, often caused by chasing money, keeping up with what is "hip," etc. At my age, and with cancer walking lockstep with each breath, the process of decluttering the mind is certainly a bit more complex. In Sikhism, it is said that one's life is not fully tested until he has overcome a tough challenge. In my case, this is not only fighting illness but also decluttering my mind. My approach to doing this is focused on reading, writing, enjoying the interconnectedness of nature and appreciating the beautiful present time. With this, even if my years may be short, I am able to stretch the essence of each day.