There are many doors in our house, but the best of all doors is the one inside me, the one that, each moment, opens to the miracles prepared just for me. What’s really wonderful about this is the door inside me is always brand new, and always opens to a totally new view. Today, each moment will present a door I have never seen before, a door devotedly decorated by the timeless universe, beckoning me to turn the knob and know the stunning truth that waits behind it. I might call each moment my personal doorman, graciously waiting for my signal to open the door and wave me through with a bow and a smile. Does this mean that there are thousands of doors waiting for me today? Not really. There is only one door, the door that is here and now, and the joy of this day is that I get to open that door and see the spectacular creations the cosmos has prepared for me, right now, and again and again and again.
The word ‘animate’ comes from the Latin word ‘anima’, which means ‘soul’ or ‘life’, and this animais constantly lighting a soft and lovely fire under me and everything. I sometimes see and feel this refreshing flame, but only when I stay still, and look and listen. Each moment is prepared to fully enliven me. It’s like a superpower breathes new life into me every single moment, over and over, with cheer and good-heartedness, all day and all night long. Right now, as I’m typing these words, everything I see around me is being energized just by being here, right now. The old pens and pencils in the jar on my desk are actually brand new in this new moment, standing in a way they’ve never stood before. Our couch with its blue cushions seems to be cheered-up simply by being present, and the windows in the dining room show scenes outside that are, in some ways, brand new, scenes I have never seen before in all my 81 years. My old, faithful lungs are constantly rousing me up by bringing me approximately 26 sextillion molecules of air each moment, and my heart gives my body a buzz by moving blood cells at the rate of 3 feet per second, rolling roughly 83 gallons of blood zestfully through me every hour! And then there are thoughts and feelings, which somehow blossom inside me by the thousands, unfolding fresh and boundless light hour after hour
For certain, the anima, the soul and life of what is called ‘me’, is firing-up itself, second after second, stirring up endless newness, and with absolutely no help from this separate so-called ‘me’!
Last night, as I lying awake in bed and feeling a little frustrated because I hadn’t yet fallen asleep, for some reason the idea of the friendliness of everything came to mind. Strange – I was tossing and turning and getting increasingly upset because of my sleeplessness, and yet at the same time I was being visited by the beautiful sense of the neighborliness of the entire universe! In the midst of my temporary and annoying insomnia, I felt surrounded by the comradeship of absolutely everything. My wife and devoted companion, Delycia, was beside me, but I knew somehow that the air in the bedroom was also showing affection, as were the walls and windows and the easygoing, sociable darkness outside. I don’t know that I have ever felt such vast and saturating congeniality. Somehow, as I lay wide awake in bed, I was absolutely sure that the universe is a totally convivial and sheltering place. I remember thinking of Delycia’s orchids in our living room, and how utterly companionable they always seem as I sit near them – how they lovingly welcome me no matter what I happen to be thinking or feeling. Even worries and sorrows – my lifelong ‘enemies’ – were, I somehow felt, actually full of friendliness and a willingness to assist me in rising up from fear into a sense of the togetherness of all of life.
Yes, I was temporarily sleepless as I lay there beside Delycia, but I was also – I knew – in the center of a completely cordial and comradely universe. I smiled a lot in my wakefulness, and even silently laughed a little.
It’s interesting to me that the word ‘cogitate’, which basically means ‘to think deeply’, derives from the Latin word ‘agitare’, meaning ‘to shake’. It does make sense, though, because thinking deeply certainly involves a shaking-up of thoughts and perspectives. Cogitating is like having the peaceful sea of our usual mind whipped a little so new ideas start rising and rolling along like new swells and waves. It’s a way of purposely disturbing our usual way of thinking so openness and innovation can start shining again. And yet, it’s not really something that I do by myself. Somehow, this vast and persuasive universe, of which I am a significant part, is constantly rousing up fresh thoughts for me to think, and all I have to do is sit silently and let the sea of my mind be tenderly shaken. I need to allow my mind to be stirred up if I want new ideas to start dancing. The universe is a friend, in this way, by flustering and ruffling my thoughts, and thus revealing new paths to take in the wonderful wilderness of life. In a very real way, our wise universe is always cogitating, always unsettling our thoughts so new and sometimes spectacular kinds of waves and currents can unfold in the boundless ocean of our minds.
We took separate walks this morning – Delycia down River Road from the Peace Sanctuary into Mystic and back, and me up along the trails at the Sanctuary. I always love walking in these peaceful and serene woods beside the usually untroubled Mystic River. It’s like coming home to an always safe shelter.
The life I am taking part in in my 81st year is, above all, a copious one. Every single moment is abundant with choices and chances and roads to travel and stunning personal mountains to ascend. Of course, moments can also be plentiful with fears and disappointments, but right in the midst, each of those moments is also overflowing with opportunities for grace and wisdom. And of course, how wonderfully profuse are the thoughts that come to me by the thousands, hour after hour, flying from who-knows-where to take part in my life for a few moments or hours. Like all of us, I’m alwaysoverflowing with thoughts, just as the sky is abounding with stars every night, and I have the pleasure and freedom to choose from this amazing mental abundance. I also have a copious amount of choices presented to me all day long. They flutter like butterflies in front of me moment by moment, each choice – even the bad ones, even the seemingly disastrous ones – offering numerous blessings of countless kinds. And think of nature and all her teeming miracles – the dust in the air making limitless fairylike circles and swirls, the inexhaustible oxygen atoms softly flowing into lungs around the world, the immeasurable rays of the sun spreading and shining in innumerable ways.
I and all of us are surely involved in an exceedingly copious universe. Just writing about it today stuns me with a vast sense of astonishment and thankfulness.
Anything and everything is possible. That’s the message I hear when my inner ear is open to the voice of the universe. Unfortunately, I often spend my time listening to the discouraging words of so-called ‘common sense’ and ‘practicality’, which closes the door to the boundless realms of possibility. There’s no end to what is feasible if I consider the limitless diversities and potentials of the universe. Every moment is an infinite mixed bag, a medley of movements and modifications that can never be measured or totally understood. We like to think we know what is possible and what is not, and yet the assortment of opportunities that are always available to us is mind-boggling in its infiniteness. Wind easily works with mountains and trees and seas to help itself swing and sway across our planet, and I could be like the wind, working with life in a loving, trustful, and free-wheeling way to travel into unbelievably beautiful realms. Moments move through my life with kindness, and I can journey through my days with the faith that everything is wonderfully generous and plausible. Sadness and sorrow will happen, for sure, but surrounding and intermixing with the sadness and sorrow will be endless kinds of simplicity and peace. This universe is filled to the brim with possibility, and so am I, which makes me shout a soft cheer from my desk where, this morning, I’m setting down all kinds of imaginable words.
Several years ago, a stray tabby cat would sometimes wander into our yard and settle in a soft place under a tree and peacefully pass the time – and even sometimes gracefully rise up into Delycia’s lap and let her stroke his fur. He and she made a happy pair as they sat in the shade enjoying each other’s presence. This went on for days and weeks and months, the stray gray kitty coming over on a regular basis for a visit, and Delycia and he forming a warm, now-and-then relationship.
Then, about a year ago, something said to both of us that we should invite this handsome, gracious kitty into our home – not ‘for good’ – of course not! – but for, well, just a pleasant and very quick visit.
Well, it was a pleasant visit … but not at all quick. This 50-year-old (in human terms) feline has since become our cherished housemate. After carefully inquiring of neighbors and making sure he was a stray, we officially adopted him, named him Sunny, had him examined and treated by a local vet, and now this sunny friend shines a very significant light on our lives. Each morning at around 5:00 a.m., he announces the new day with his resolute but affectionate meows, which somehow seem more beautiful to us than spring birdsongs. I get up and open the door to our bedroom, and directly but delicately Sunny springs up on the bed and snuggles beside Delycia. Throughout the day, he occasionally serenades us with his musical meowing, usually when Delycia is in the kitchen and he senses the coming of some special food into his dish. A real treat for all of us is when Sunny stylishly ascends into my or Delycia’s lap. (He truly does not jump. Like a performer, he ascends, and with the silkiness of a ballet dancer.) I think he loves these lap-minutes as much as we do. We stroke his fur, and he purrs along like he’s in kitty-heaven. He loves especially to have his head softly massaged. He purrs and whirrs and hums, and we thank the gift-giving universe that we have found such a dear and sunny friend.
I was a teacher for 45 years, but now, in my 81st year of life, I’m realizing more and more that I am now, in retirement, the most serious student I have ever been, and luckily, I am being taught by truly master teachers. I call them Mrs. and Mr. Professor Universe, because they were born when the universe was born, and have been teaching for zillions of years. I receive their marvelous instructions every moment of every day. For instance, my professors softly set thoughts in my mind and allow me to use them as I wish, either exploring them, or smiling and waving goodbye and sending them off. My teachers gave me the trees I’m seeing right now outside the window, softly shaking in a breeze, which tutors me about how to take it easy and let life move the way it wishes. Mrs. and Mr. Professor Universe even use music on the radio to show me the eternal rhythms of life, so my days can sing like days always want to do, and these tireless teachers are always training me by sending feelings flowing through me and allowing me to select the ones I wish to follow. Sometimes they even have sorrow instruct me about the necessity for acceptance and openness, and they occasionally assign me some worries to work with, in the hope that I can come to see the wisdom in simply allowing life to shine its lights in its own special ways.
Each morning I rise with the wish to be a good student in this boundless, inspiring classroom called life, instructed and coached by teachers as old and bright as the stars above.
This morning, we attended the sangha meditation group at All Souls UUA Church in New London, CT, and it was a peaceful and inspiring experience, as usual. Just to be with friends in silence for 60 minutes is a rare pleasure, and I look forward to it each week. After the sangha, we walked with the group to the Washington Street Coffee House, where we had good conversation and – for Delycia and me – tasty cups of herbal tea. Then, after breakfast, we said goodbye to our friends and drove to Bluff Point Nature Preserve, where we enjoyed a brisk and windy 3-mile walk beside the Poquonock Estuary.
The older I get – and I’m now 81 – the happier I am to know that I am utterly naive. When I was younger, I prided myself on increasing my knowledge – exploring the complexities of life and coming to all sorts of important understandings. I guess I felt like it was inevitable that I would eventually comprehend most of the meanings of life. It was as though life was an extremely complicated puzzle, but one that could eventually be solved by a person with a deep-thinking mind. Now, however, in these rousing senior days, a new and seemingly older sun has slowly risen and shown me the incredible beauty of what I can only call unsophistication. I see, in this new light, that I am as ingenuous as the gentle leaves swirling in the trees these days. Leaves don’t understand their lives. They simply sway and swing – and effortlessly fall when autumn comes, and more and more now, I’m swaying and swinging with satisfaction and innocence, trusting that life is leading me in perfect ways. Does that mean I’m living like an immature kid? Yes, perhaps – and proud of it, because when living things reach maturity they begin to die, and I feel, in a way, like I’m just starting to truly live, like I’m a naive 81-year-old kid, wide-eyed with wonder at what this universe performs every single second. Yes, there is death and destruction here and there around the world, but my naivety helps me also see the goodness and graciousness that’s literally everywhere. I’m thankful for my 81-year-old childlikeness. I do see the darkness, but, like a boy, I am awed by the stars shining above every darkness.
Today, Delycia and I took another refreshing hike on the trail at a Avery Farm Nature Preserve, and all I could feel was my astonishing good fortuneat being able to do something like this it the age of 81. I felt youthful and spry as we walked, even when I had to occasionally pause on an upslope to catch my breath. The woods around me seemed to sing, in their winter silence, about the specialness of old age. Senior trees seemed to stand still in respect and esteem as we passed, and the far-off songs of birds sounded like praise to me. I definitely was a lucky old dude as we paced along with spirit. (Below are some scenes.)
Businesses love to advertise, and the best business I know of is the business called life. It publicizes itself to me moment after moment, making known its powers and promises and gifts. Life constantly advertises its beauties: its fresh new sights to see, its sounds that sweep around and through me always, its feelings that find a way to influence my hours and days. Life is always posting commercials: Turn and see the marvelous sight out the window! Look at how this moment is shining! Buy yourself some peacefulness just by staying and appreciating what’s right here! I get announcements about new products all the time. Life announces that my next thought could be a prize winner, that where I am right now is paradise, and that my hands being able to easily fold together is a major miracle. Truly, living my life is like watching an astonishing television show, where beautiful bargains are announced every moment: A new breath is coming! A thought you’ve never had before is arriving! A sight you have never seen before is right in front of you, right now! I am grateful that life is a successful advertiser. I hope I can buy all of its billions of products – and the good news is … I don’t have to pay a cent!
When I was a boy in a family that attended church regularly, I thought of aisles as being sacred passageways in a church leading to some sort of sanctified experience. At church, I walked up the aisle to my seat, and I always found myself feeling almost scared, as though I was entering a place of vast mystery. These days now, at the age of 81, I often feel, in the most ordinary circumstances, like I’m once again looking down the aisle of a sacred place, but this place is called the present moment. Each moment, I am living in – walking down and up – an aisle in the mystifying and revered cathedral called life. And, what is wonderful is that no matter in which direction I turn, the aisle always leads to the highest and most consecrated experiences possible. When I was a boy, I went to church, usually only on Sundays, but now, in these reverent days of elderhood, I truly know that I am walking down an aisle towards something sacred every moment – even though I am usually not aware of it. Like when I was a restless lad in church, I am still typically distracted by daydreams and musings, and thus I don’t notice the holiness of all the moments. Right now, at 5:23 in the morning, as I’m sitting at my desk in front of my computer, I can look down the aisle of life and see and feel the purity and sanctity of all existence. Yes, I am in a church, but it’s the majestic and cheering church of daily life, and the aisle that I’m always walking down or up is always leading, and arriving at, everlasting acceptance and satisfaction.