"Like the First Morning"
-At the Desert Retreat House -
People often think that we have no change of seasons out here in Southern California –there are no autumn leaves or winter snows, it’s always “warm and sunny,” especially out here in the desert where it is supposedly always “hot and sunny.” But nothing could be further from the truth, the desert where we live has many variable seasons. In fact, just this morning the world of nature was teaching me that a new season had arrived and I was invited to go outdoors and step into its wonder.
When I woke up this morning I knew something was going on outside because I could hear the sound of the howling winds rushing through the canyons and sweeping through the desert floor and all the chimes and bells around our home were loudly ringing in the blowing wind, announcing that a new time had arrived.
As I walked outdoors into the all-familiar garden in which I sit every single morning of every single day, somehow everything looked and felt new and different to me. The air was crisp and cool, the color of the morning sky took on a different hue, the garden fragrances were different. It was obvious to me that the desert I greeted yesterday morning was not the same as the one I greeted today - a new season had arrived, an early-winter was in the air. It all felt so fresh and pristine - “morning had broken like the first morning.”
As I sat in my garden and listened to the wind chimes as they announced the arrival of a new day and a new season, I called to mind something the Buddhist nun and teacher, Pema Chodron, once so wisely said:
To be fully alive, fully human and completely awake is to be
continually thrown out of the nest.
To live fully is to be always in no-man’s land,
to experience each moment as completely new and fresh.
To live is to be willing to die over and over again.
In a very real sense this is precisely what I experienced this morning – this is the lesson the world of nature was teaching me when I walked out into my garden on this new day in this new time. Everything that “was” yesterday had died and today something new had been born, who I “was” yesterday had died and today I had been born anew.
The Buddha taught that everything is impermanence – nothing, utterly nothing ever stays the same. What was, no longer is, and what will be has not yet come about, so all we ever have is now. When I am able to fully understand the impermanence of life I am much more able to embrace the moment – and only by “embracing the moment” am I able to be fully alive.
I am reminded of something Alan Watts once said:
The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it,
move with it and join the dance.
Today when I walked out into the new day of a new season everything was dancing. The palm trees were bending in the wind, the birds were fluttering around, desert bushes and flowers in my garden were dancing in a circle as the morning clouds went skipping by - all moving in step to the sound of the wind and the chiming of the bells.
As I stood there in the midst of that cosmic dance I could have been afraid of what was happening. I might have closed my eyes and wished everything was the same as it was yesterday, perhaps fearing that the high wind would do some damage. I also might have wished the wind might stop its fearsome blowing; but instead I chose to join the dance.
I swayed and I moved and turned around in circles, plunging into it, moving with it it and joining the dance.
It was a moment of being fully alive.