Friday, April 8, 2016

Out of Control

"Sweet Refreshing Rain"
 - At the Desert Retreat House- 

As I woke up this morning I was greeted by a sound I rarely hear in this desert where we live- it was raining out. My immediate response was that of resistance to this unusual turn of events. When I get up in the morning I expect blue skies and a beautiful sunrise and besides, I have some outdoor plans for today and my brother is coming to visit us for the weekend. It can’t rain!

At the sound of the morning rain, my first impulse was to close the drapes and maybe put my head under the covers hoping somehow it would make it all go away. But then I “came to my senses” and realized the folly of “resisting” the rain. Of all the areas in my life where I may have some degree of control, the weather is not one of them – rain just happens whether I like it or not.

The phrase “out of control” has a pretty negative connotation to it. An “out of control” person is someone who acts irresponsibly, and “out of control” events in life are unpredictable happenings that cannot be managed. And yet, the more I think about it, in addition to uncontrollable weather, almost everything else in life is relatively “out of our control.” I may be able to influence what happens in my life but I can’t ever control anything. We can eat well and exercise and still get sick, do our best to raise our kids responsibly and they can still get into trouble. I can do my best to obey the rules of the road, but when I walk across the street I can still get hit by a random driver who is texting on a smartphone.  Most of the time life is essentially “out of control.”  

I am reminded of something I came across recently in one of my Buddhist magazines:

We try to control things
because we are afraid of what will happen if we don’t

It seems to me that we only find deeper peace when we aren’t afraid of what may happen when we don’t try to control what we can’t control in the first place.

This morning when I realized that the weather was “out of control,” I stopped resisting it but then rather than simply resigning myself to the unpleasantness of the rain, I started to pay closer attention to it, and suddenly the rainy weather took on a whole new meaning.

Instead of closing my drapes I opened up some windows and looked out at my meditation garden in the gray light of the morning.  The clouds and shadows created a mystical and mysterious aura to the dawning day, the sound of the falling rain felt comforting, the cool breeze was refreshing and I could see all the plants in my garden glistening with life. I also took notice of a sweet-pungent fragrance in the air, the smell of “creosote bushes” growing wild in the desert - a fragrance that is only emitted when it rains.

Oh, what a beautiful morning!

Author and spiritual director, Eckhart Tolle, wisely teaches:

Whatever the present moment contains
embrace it as if you had chosen it.

This morning I embraced the weather over which I had no control and I paid attention to what the world of nature was telling me - in doing so I found great beauty and deeper truth. What a great life lesson about paying attention to whatever comes along in our “out of control” everyday existence.

I am also reminded of another piece of Zen wisdom:

When you pay attention to your everyday life
you will discover something truly wonderful.
Our regular old lives are actually incredibly joyful-
amazingly, astoundingly, relentlessly, mercilessly joyful.

It’s supposed to rain off-and-on all day today and I look forward to all the surprises in store.

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