"The First Time Again -
- desert dawn -
In this autumn season as the desert temperatures have started to cool down, I notice that the trails around my house are getting pretty crowded once again. I see all sorts of people out hiking every day, some are there for exercise and recreation, others because they have come out to the solitude of the desert on a soul-searching quest, looking for the truth.
Many times I will see someone sitting alone under a palm tree reading a book or quietly resting. overlooking the wilderness with their eyes closed; but yesterday I observed something I had never before encountered – a young man was sitting on a rock in a lonely wilderness place vigorously pecking away at his laptop.
I wondered what that young fellow may have been doing as he typed away, was he conducting business or answering emails? Then again, since he was sitting in the middle of the wilderness, I wondered if he may have been engaged in some sort of a Google Search, looking for answers to his questions, searching for deeper truth and greater wisdom: “Who am I? What is the meaning of life? Is there a God?"
It struck me that, more often than not, when it comes to finding truth and wisdom in our lives, the harder we look the less we find. You can “search” for (and often find) all sorts of answers with the stroke of a computer key nowadays; but for the most part, finding deeper truth often means that we must sit quietly and wait for wisdom to come to us.
As I sat watching that young man with his computer in the wilderness, I was reminded of something The Quaker teacher and author, Parker Palmer, once observed:
The human soul is essentially shy – just like a wild animal,
it will flee from the crowd and seek safety in the underbrush.
If we want to see a wild animal we know that the last thing we should do
is to go crashing through the woods yelling for it to come out.
But if we walk quietly into the wilderness and sit at the base of a tree,
breathing with the earth and fading into our surroundings,
the wild creature we seek will eventually show up.
Almost every morning I go out and sit in my garden as the sun is about to rise, and I have found that my best prayer is to just wait and see what happens. I try to clear my mind and I don't look for, or search for, or expect anything; but, if I sit there long enough I discover all sorts of revelations. I notice a ray of morning sun hit the leaf of a tree and light it up with tender beauty, or if I sit quietly, the little desert hummingbirds nestled in the trees suddenly make their appearance and come out to the feeder and the fountain. Sometimes a desert squirrel or a roadrunner hiding in the shrubs and cacti will even peak out at me.
If I sit quietly and wait, I almost always discover that I live in an enchanted land of truth and beauty and that I belong to it all and am never alone.
On his quest for enlightenment, the Buddha did nothing but sit under a tree waiting for 40 days, and with his mind emptied and his heart open, wisdom came to him and he was enlightened by truth. Jesus did the same thing when he went out into the wilderness for 40 days. He just sat there and waited in silence until truth came to him and he heard the voice of “God.”
As many of us look for answers and search for the truth, especially in these chaotic and more troubled times, we might all do well not to look so hard. Go find a rock, a park bench, a chair in a local Starbucks or a quiet place at home - unplug and clear your mind, and see what comes your way.
I am reminded of a wonderful Zen saying:
When you look for the ‘way,’ you become far from it.
When you seek the ‘way’ you turn away from it all the more.