"In My Desert Garden"
We had a horrible wind storm yesterday in the desert where I live - "gale force" winds came howling through the canyons, swirling around the sand and dust for the better part of the afternoon and well into the evening.
As I sat inside my house and watched the storm outside I was sure that it would literally blow away my meditation garden- the olive and fruit trees were almost bent in half by the force of the mighty winds, the tender flowers whipped every which way. I couldn't imagine how they might survive such an onslaught - but they did.
This morning I went outdoors and everything looked new, fresh and alive. In fact it seems as if the storm may have even helped the garden - everything as good if not better than usual.
When I was a college student a poster hung above the desk in my dorm room that read:
Bloom Where You are Planted!
I'm not exactly sure what I thought this poster meant back in those days; now, all these many years later, I may have some insight into it - an important if not paradoxical lesson about the path of the spiritual journey.
Life is indeed temporary and impermanent - everything is changing and chaos is inherent in our human condition. So, paradoxically, this is precisely why we all need to find stability in wherever we find ourselves in life - grounded in the midst of the ongoing chaos.
Firmly planted in each changing moment, we bloom and we blossom with new life.
The 4th century Christian Desert Mothers and Fathers understood the paradox of remaining stable in the midst of constant change and impermanence. They lived in little desert caves with few possessions and took each passing day as it came along, alert and awake in every unfolding moment; and yet, at the same time they were not nomads. They didn't wander from place to place either geographically or spiritually, and they highly valued their practice of this discipline of stability.
Abba Antony, a wise old desert monk, admonished his fellow monks:
In whatever place you find yourself, do not easily leave it.
There is another story of the desert monks that tells of a young novice who came to his teacher seeking advice. The boy was restless and eager to grow deeper in his spiritual life. He wanted more and asked what he might do to achieve it. The old monk told the young novice to go back to his room and sit there, to go and plant himself in the place in which he finds himself:
Go sit in your cell and your cell will teach you everything.
He told him to go and "bloom where you are planted."
We all live in a very transient world today- everyone constantly moving from one place to another, always looking for the ideal job, the ideal place to live, a better diet, a better spiritual discipline that will get you further along the path. And our desire to move on is exponentially heightened when the howling winds blow and life is perhaps more difficult then ever.
But the lesson my garden taught me yesterday during that big storm was to stay still in the midst of whatever comes along. Instead of running away or running to a bigger or a better goal, my garden taught me how to stay with the moment, be "present" in the midst of the chaos. This helps grow deeper roots, roots that keep me grounded come what may, roots that allow me to bloom where I am planted.
Listen to my podcast: "Desert Wisdom"