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The garden was quiet. The flowers still – motionless.  Stately and magnificent.  I sat down on a bench beneath a sheltering tree relaxing into the pace of the place – slowing down the internal chatter of the mind and arriving in this place of beauty.  I wanted to stop knowing and start seeing and there was a question or two I was curious about.  “What is the quality of my mind;” and “where does ‘Robert’ start or stop and the universe begin?”  Lofty questions for a flower patch maybe but I was confident that the flowers – if so willing – could be powerful muses of insight and inspiration.

Colors danced inside my head. Swaths of colors blurred into a spectrum of shades and hues.  I  focused on the breath and breathing and on listening to sounds arising around me.  A thought arose and like a dog seeing a squirrel my mind instantly followed it.  It was memory of something my partner had shared about being in the moment – about realizing that “fear is simply a delusion and that true freedom is found when one realizes that none of us have any control over anything.”  I watched the mind turn those word thoughts over and over till I was lost in them before I awoke again coming back to self – back to the breath once more.  The mind soon quieted down again.

A friend of mine is a Dharma teacher in our local Sangha.  We have lunch together and cackle quite a bit.  She shares her clay feet and I mine.  I respect her wisdom and her experience and when she started telling me about her insights during a meditation retreat she had attended taught by some fellow named Ashin Tejaniya, I perked right up.  “What is the quality of the observing mind,” this Monk had asked?  “A good question” I thought as I mindlessly stuffed another french fry into my mouth.

So, I asked  of self as I sat beneath the tree, camera bag at my side, the gentle aroma of earth and plants and diesel fuel tickling my nose.  “What is the quality of my observing mind,” I asked and waited in silence noting the movement of breath in and out.   A voice spoke: “this is a stupid question.” it said.  “A HA!  Judging mind.” I laughed and held myself with gentleness.  As my laughter faded spaciousness appeared and it seemed in that moment that just for a second “Robert” had disappeared.

So, when the mind follows the drone of a plane as it disappears out of range, where is Robert?  When the call of a bird snatches the mind and flaps away with it – where is Robert? When the mind is filled with fields of color – where is Robert?  When “I” am concentrating on a single flower – focusing  upon a tiny bit of light – photographing a moment of time spent contemplating in a garden – where am I?

Robert Bridges

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