-along a wilderness trail-
Not far from our home there are some very beautiful public gardens - flowing fountains, a duck pond, exotic flowers and blossoming cacti, citrus, olive and fig trees everywhere, the purple mountains towering in the background against a clear blue pristine sky.
In this graduation, prom and wedding season, the gardens are often a very popular sight for taking photographs. Students in academic gowns, handsome couples on their way to a prom, brides in white dresses are often seen in the gardens - a perfect setting for some pretty stunning pictures.
A few days ago I watched a photographer taking pictures of a wedding party in this desert garden, and I realized that the ducks in the pond, the fountains and flowers, mountains and sky were nothing but "backdrop" to the human drama going on at center stage. The bride and groom posing for a photograph were virtually unaware of their surroundings - totally "indifferent" to it.
I was suddenly struck by an awareness that what was going on in those desert gardens during that photo shoot" was an icon of how most people live their lives every day. The world "out there," the external world apart from the individual "self" often serves as a "backdrop" to which many people are quite indifferent, paying it little if any attention.
It reminded me once again about the importance of paying attention and being alert if I am to live a life of "mindfulness" on my spiritual journey.
As I reflect on those wedding photographs in the desert garden, the lines of a poem by Rainer Marie Rilke come to mind:
Sing the gardens my heart…
Show, my heart, that you aren't without them.
That when their figs ripen, they have you in mind.
That when their winds grow almost visible
amid the flowering branches, it's you they embrace.
There is no such thing as internal and external, center stage and backdrop- everything and everyone are all woven together into the whole fabric of the universe. The many are in the ONE and the ONE is in the many - no separation, no distance.
As a bride and groom were having their photographs taken in a garden, indifferent to it all, the nearby "ripening fig trees" had them in mind, and the flowering branches under which they stood were embracing them. Like many people, they just weren't alert or attentive enough to be aware if it.
The longer I live out here in the desert, the less indifferent I become. The wilderness has a way of pulling "me" out of my "self."
I begin my daily routine by sitting in my meditation garden at the break of day, and I find that it is virtually impossible for me to be indifferent to what goes on as the sun comes up over the eastern mountains shedding its brilliant light on this incredibly beautiful wilderness - so much more than a "pretty backdrop" for "me" to sit and have morning coffee.
Every day I try to be alert and pay attention to it all, and when I do this, I become more and more aware that "I am it all."
More lines of poetry come to mind -this one from John Muir. I bask in the wisdom of these words:
The sun shines not on us, but in us.
The rivers flow not past, but through us,
thrilling, tingling, vibrating ever fiber and every cell.