Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Smaller, The Better

"Tender Beauty"
-in the meditation garden-

As I went around watering some of the pots in our garden yesterday, I noticed that one tiny little flower had sprung up from a bristly cactus. The little flower was so simple, so small, and so tenderly beautiful. It grabbed my total attention, and I had to simply stop and gaze at it. That one tiny cactus flower became an icon for me of what a "spiritual" journey is all about. That one little flower pointed a "way" for me. 

As I see it, the direction of any spiritual quest usually runs directly against the grain of popular culture. On my spiritual journey, I find that I am always "going against the traffic," which is probably why the spiritual path is often the road less traveled. 

We live in a culture driven by the ethic of "the bigger, the better." We are told that success and happiness are gained by going up the ladder. We strive to attend bigger and better schools and colleges so that we can land bigger and better jobs that will allow individuals to have more and more control,  and this will lead to bigger bank accounts, so that we can live in bigger and better homes and have all sorts of bigger and better "stuff."  

The road of everyday popular culture flows in the direction of the "ego."  It's no wonder there are so many narcissists around today.

But I know lots of people on that road to "bigger and better" who are ultimately quite unhappy, often kind of empty.  When you live your life within the walls of your own ego, there aren't many other people around to live life with you- it's a pretty lonely place to be. The fact is that the road to "bigger and better" very often leads to a dead-end. 

The path of the spiritual journey moves in the opposite direction. The road signs along the way of this path read: "the smaller the better."  Paradoxically, when the ego is "smaller," life actually becomes "bigger and better." 

Living in a desert has been a great gift to me - it has helped point me in the right direction, down a spiritual path.  It has been said that the desert is not a place for the "ego" to thrive. I totally understand what that means. 

At this time of year the desert bakes in an afternoon heat of triple digit temperatures. And so, sitting outside at night is such a refreshing treat. Last night I sat outside in my garden. The desert sky at night is always breathtaking for me - the endless array of planets and stars lighting up the night skies with a brilliant display of cosmic energy. It's always so overwhelming to me.

As I sat under the stars last night, I was reminded of something the British adventurer D.H. Lawrence once said as he camped under the light of the desert skies:

In the naked desert's night we were stained by the dew,
and shamed into pettiness by the innumerable silence of the stars.

That's what the desert does for me; it shames me into pettiness. It shrinks my own sense of self importance. It reduces my false sense of being so "big;" the desert is so big and it makes "me" realize "I" am so small. 

And when that happens I actually become "bigger and better." My own small self melts into something beyond me.  It draws me out into the endless flow of life and makes me know that I belong to it all, and "I" become at ONE with the many and realize that the ONE is in the many. 

A little tiny simple tender cactus flower yesterday was another one of those guideposts given to me as I walk this journey of the less traveled road. It was pointing me in the right direction

The Smaller, The Better. 

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