Stubbornness or Stillness?
This morning I had a meeting in Fayetteville, Tennessee. On my way, driving on country back roads I passed a Burro, standing by a fence. The other cows and critters in the pasture were nowhere near it but there it stood facing the morning sun. A few hours later I was returning home and passed the same Burro in almost the same spot as it was in earlier. It paid no attention to the automobiles coming and going or the other animals in the field.
As I watched the Burro I thought about its unwanted and unwarranted reputation of being resistant, refusing to obey, obstinately going its own way and doing its own thing. However, I did wonder; “Is he being stubborn or still?” I finally decided he was simply being still. He was facing the sun, he was on level ground, he wasn’t distracted.
I reflected on my day and my mental state and thought; “I long to be like the Burro; enlightened, sure-footed and mindful.”
Grounded, Simple, Generous, Controlled, Joyful, Present –
The contemplative life isn’t hard to understand. Most of the teachings can be learned in a day but they offer a lifetime of wisdom.
A few moments ago I was sitting on the porch basking in the sun. It was wonderful. I had brought my phone with me but not sure why. I laid it down beside me and closed my eyes. It’s warm for the month of January. Yesterday it was cloudy and cool but in that present moment of sitting on the porch, the skies were a brilliant blue. Our Siberian Husky was sprawled out on the driveway, not a care in the world. As I embraced the beauty and warmth my attention kept going to the phone. I knew there wasn’t anything on it I needed to read or respond to but the fact it was there distracted me.
This is why simplicity is important in the contemplative life. Everything we own, invest our ourselves in, give our passion, energy and time takes a piece of us. The more we have in our lives the less contemplative we are able to be. Letting go of all that is superfluous allows us to focus on what’s important while the fluff floats away.
On my way to a meeting today I was stopped at a red light waiting, patiently as I could, for it to turn green. From a side street an ambulance and another emergency vehicle pulled onto the road and my focus went from the red light to the flashing ones racing to an unknown destination. They faded from sight and I went back to waiting for the green telling me to go. The light finally changed and I released the brake, pressed the gas and moved forward. However, I noticed that the vehicles on the side and behind me didn’t move. This is when I realized that after the distraction of the red strobe lights my focus went to the wrong traffic light a street ahead of me instead of the one I should’ve been fixing my gaze upon. Slamming on my brakes, trying not to look too foolish, I waited on the correct light to turn green and then slowly proceeded.
Laughing at my ineptitude I also reflected on the importance of keeping our focus. Many times we get distracted by a flashy and noisy world which can lead to unfortunate events, losing our way, embarrassment and regret. Wisdom helps us make sure we know where, why, and when we should move forward and when to wait.
Last night I was building a wall for my workshop. The sun had set and the cool evening air was settling in. I began to clean up to go inside and eat dinner when I caught something out of the corner of my eye. I looked closer and sure enough there was a small snake laying on the corner of a door post (pictured above). I have no idea how it got up there or how long it had been looking over my shoulder but once I knew it was there I couldn’t forget it’s presence. I removed it from its resting place and took it to a place much further from the house.
I’ve thought about the snake many times today. Any time my peripheral vision has caught a leaf blowing or I’ve brushed up against an object my reaction is to quickly react and make sure there aren’t any other “visitors” watching over me.
It’s a perfect fall day. There are countless beautiful sights to behold and crisp air to inhale. However, instead of being blessed I am being cautious. I’ve been too busy looking over my shoulder, too busy being distracted to see the life in front of me.