April 16 – One Drop of Truth at a Time – Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening
It is the fullness of our attention to whatever is near that has birds fly out of God’s mouth.
The months relax and the ice enclosing a bent-over branch thaws, and the snow drops and the branch springs back up after its deathlike sleep. The tree coming into spring teaches us how to let go into renewal. For this is how the freeze around a broken heart thaws. In another part of the world, small brilliant fish mouth pebbles along the ocean sand, sucking off bits of food and spitting back the rest. This is how they comb the bottom, and these small limbless creatures teach us how to suffer and move on, how to sift through what is nourishing and how to give back the rest. And high in the mountains, away from the eyes of others, a small cave with its singular drip collects clear water that is the heartbeat of the mountain. So the centre of the Earth itself shows us how to be: one drop of clearness at a time, collecting in the moist centre that keeps the soul alive.
These are just a few examples of an essential relationship that exists between all things. In practice, if we look closely with our whole being at anything – plants, trees, the human heart, emptiness, fish, even the worn gears of a watch – the same core of deep instruction will rise before us in a language that waits beneath words. The world, it seems, both natural and constructed, is an endless net of particular lessons, each made of the same compelling threat that is always hiding in the open, simply waiting for our complete attention to reveal itself. By pulling at these threads, I have discovered again and again, the deep and common way of things that is embedded in everything.
So when confusion or pain seems to tighten what is possible, when sadness or frustration shrinks your sense of well-being, when worry or fear agitates the peace right out of you, try lending your attention to the nearest thing. Try watching how the dust lifts and resettles when you blow on it. Watch how the paw prints of your neighbour’s retriever, if stared at long enough, turn into unexpected symbols. Watch how the one shell you brought back three years ago from the sea reveals itself, at last, as a face that is telling you how to continue. Give your full attention over to the nearest patch of life – to how an apple peels and juices – and after aw while each thing attended will reveal yet another way back to the centre.