Monday, November 10, 2014

Stepping in the River

"A Stream in the Wilderness"

We have fallen into a pretty standard routine in our life here in the desert. Every morning, before beginning the day's activities, my wife and I, along with our two dogs, walk for about 45 minutes on one of the wilderness trails outside our home. 

This morning as we walked the same walk on the same trail we travel every single day, it suddenly struck me that although it all looked the same, in truth everything was different than it was the day before. For one thing, yesterday we walked with a friend of ours who was visiting. Today she wasn't with us. Today we also encountered different people on the trail from those we met yesterday, and our conversation along the way was not the same as yesterday.  But more than that, today's routine walk was different from yesterday because the entire cosmos, everything and everyone in the whole entire world was essentially different from what it had been yesterday.

As we took our normal routine walk today, I realized that every cell in our bodies had changed and evolved overnight - that's just how it happens. I also realized that every encounter we had yesterday, each conversation, each email, each phone call, had also somehow made us different people than we were the day before. As I walked the routine trail, it struck me that everything that lives and breathes and has being was caught up in this constant process of change - the sun, the mountains, the cacti and flowers on the sandy trail were not the same as they were yesterday at this time. 

When I started to pay attention to the ongoing change, our morning walk was not at all as routine as it may have first appeared to be.

Buddhist nun and teacher, Pema Chodron, puts it this way:

That nothing is static or fixed, that all is fleeting and impermanent, is the first mark of existence. It is the ordinary state of affairs. Everything is in process. Everything - every tree, every blade of grass, all the animals, insects, human beings, buildings, the animate and the inanimate - always changing, moment to moment.

This morning, as we walked on the same old trail we have always traveled every day, I thought about all the people who were getting up on this ordinary Monday morning to begin again the week's routine - back to work or school, the household tasks, regularly scheduled meetings. Many people feel like they are stuck in a rut, sick of the "same old, same old," bored with the routine of everyday living.

And yet nothing is ever "same old, same old," it can't be. Everything is changing from moment to moment. So we can find our deepest peace and experience true happiness when we simply pay attention to the moment, clearing our minds and opening our hearts to the surprises and revelations each new day has to offer.    

The ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus is famous for his classic quote:

No man ever steps into the same river twice,
for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.

On this "same old, same old" Monday morning I get up and step into the river of life, but it's not the same river as it was the day before, and I am not the same person. 

It's new every morning!

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