Teachers arise from somewhere within me that
is beyond me, the way the dark soil that is not
the root holds the root and feeds the flower.
So often we think of ourselves as freestanding and in charge, because we have the simple blessing of being able to go where we want. But we are as rooted as shrubs and trees and flowers, in an unseeable soil that is everywhere. It’s just that our roots move.
Certainly, we make our own decisions, dozens every day, but we are nourished in those decisions by the very ground we walk, by the quiet teachers we encounter everywhere. Yet in our pride and confusion, in our self-centeredness and fear, we often miss the teachers and feel burdened and alone.
In trying to hear those quiet teachers, I am reminded of the great poet Stanley Kunitz, who as a young man struggling darkly with how to proceed with his life, heard geese cross a night sky and somehow he knew what he had to do. Or how a man I know was slowly extinguishing himself, sorely depressed, when, finally exhausted of his endless considerations, he heard small birds in snow in unexpected song. He realized he was a musician who needed to find and learn the instrument he was supposed to play.
From the logic of being freestanding and in charge, experiences of this sort seem crazy-making and untrustworthy. But the soil of life in which we grow speaks a different language than we are taught in school. In actuality, truth and love and the spirit of eternity are rarely foreseeable, and clarity of being seldom comes through words.
In my brief time on Earth, I have felt the light of ageless spirit fill me unexpectedly when I thought I would die, and as water pumps its way up a slim root making that plant leaf out toward the light, I have found myself, against all fear and will, flushed with possibility in the direction of dreams I had hardly imagined.
Whether through birds in snow, or geese honking in the dark, or through the brilliant wet leaf that hits your face the moment you are questioning your worth, the quiet teachers are everywhere. When we think we are in charge, their lessons dissolve as accidents or coincidence. But when we are brave enough to listen, the glass that breaks across the room is offering us direction that can only be heard in the roots of how we feel and think.
- Breathe evenly, and accept that there is no way to prepare for unexpected teachings other than to keep your heart and mind quiet and receptive.
- Breathe deeply and slowly, knowing that as the body must be stretched to do exercise, the heart and mind must be stretched to stay open to the spirit of life.
- Breathe fully and steadily, stretching the passageways of your heart and mind, accepting that you are a flower yet to open.
~Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening