October 22 – Staying Present – Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening
“I am as all mortals are, unable to be patient.” Pablo Neruda
It is so difficult to wait, and yet nothing short of patience can give us access to the nature of wholeness. In part, this is because the mystery of life in its totality is incomprehensible, and what can be understood often speaks in a language so slow that we seldom stick around long enough to hear it. As the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda confirms, patience is a gift that waits beneath our very human agitation. Yet only through the incredibly difficult effort of staying present will life’s forces reveal to us their powers of Oneness.
I recently went to the ocean and listened much of the night to the surf, and the next morning I was surprised to see that the tide had receded to reveal a cliff that had been submerged. I was now able to walk on what revealed itself, out into the sea. And the water rising about me—spraying and slapping what normally can’t be seen—made me realize it is the same with our pain. For only when we can outwait the dark will the sharpness of experience recede like a tide to reveal what has survived beneath it all. Often what seems tragic, if looked at long enough, reveals itself as part of a larger transformation.
I also remember coming upon a clearing in the woods so densely overgrown that it felt depressing, for nothing seemed capable of getting through. Something in my own makeup resembled this and made me return there several times. But it was finally in winter, without its leaves, that this same clearing undressed itself as a magnificent bed of light that happened to be on the crest of a beautiful hill. It humbled me to realize that winter can be freeing, too, and that I am often overgrown with memories and reasons and twigs of mind that block me from the light.
So often, in our agitation and impatience, we hurry off, annoyed and troubled, in search of love or peace, never imagining that where we first looked is now letting light through or sprouting its truth. It takes months for a crab apple to shake the crab and find the apple, and even longer for joy to split its human bark.