At this time of year, caterpillars are starting to go through an amazing metamorphosis to change into butterflies, and I often wonder whether a somewhat similar kind of transformation is happening to me – and all of us – almost all the time. Every year across the earth, trillions of caterpillars undergo a complete transformation – a change so thorough that it literally remakes them into new creatures. A butterfly is not just a re-tooled caterpillar; it’s a completely new and different animal. As one writer said, it would be as if you dropped off a bicycle at the repair shop and when you came back, it had turned into a 747 jumbo jet. This marvelous rebirth will start happening soon all across New England, and it seems to me that something roughly analogous happens to all of us with amazing regularity. Life, perhaps, is a never-ending school where we are constantly learning and testing and growing and advancing – and completely transforming. Perhaps this kind of ‘school work’ happens every day, right in my ordinary and pleasingly old life – maybe as I prepare an omelet in the morning, or see sparrows floating somewhere, or just gaze out at the promising trees and sky. Maybe, like a good student in an excellent school, or like a caterpillar, I am becoming completely new, over and over again, but don’t realize it. After all, I have rarely stopped to notice and marvel at a caterpillar as it’s going through its metamorphosis, and, similarly, perhaps I’ve never been aware of the radical changes that are happening to me, and to life itself – always. Perhaps youthful 80-year-old student ‘butterflies’ have been bursting out on a daily basis at the good school at 44 Riverbend Drive – and I’ve completely missed it!
(about Bernice D, 61, Blessings, CT
She loves the changes
that choose her every day --
the constant and amazing mutations of her mind,
the inspiring reshaping of strength
caused by disappointments and sorrows,
the way her powers of understanding
so often seem transformed,
even by leaves letting go
or sunshine on the side of a house.
A walk down the driveway
redoes the cells in her body,
and bringing the groceries in
all of her past.
When she needs a total remake,
she just sincerely welcomes
and the remodeling
is instantly done.
Today will be a day of great power. A multicolored sky will have the ability to softly blow clouds and light along the softly passing hours, and peacefulness will rule over silly worries and fears. All decisions will be made by the eternal present with its natural authority, and quietness will have a secret command over everything. Each and every moment will be masterful in making everything happen that needs to happen. Feelings will flow under the sway of the universe itself, and awareness will show its supremacy in its hidden, humble way. I won’t have to grasp anything today, because everything will be in the easy and supreme grasp of right now, and I won’t need to resist anything since everything will have satisfaction sitting in dominance inside it. Today will be a day of supreme and everlasting power – for me, for all of us, for everything, and forever.
There is a power that works inside us,
a wind from a forest forever.
There is a motion
like ships on the sea
in our hearts,
and a quick whistle of kindness
in every morning of our minds.
There is something you must see –
a breeze inside you all the way,
the start of springtime every day.
It should be fairly easy for me to live with poise today, because that’s the way the universe always lives. There’s always a lovely balance everywhere, whether in the gracefulness of both strong and easy winds, the equilibrium among successes and failures, or the composure shown by both sorrows and joys. I should be able to have presence of mind today, because, in a way, everything around me will have it. All the roads we drive on will be calm beneath us, in both bumps and smoothness, and the scenery, even when somewhat unsightly, will have its own special serenity. There will be elegance in the way my breathing brings me fresh power each moment, and my 80-year-old eyes will, as usual, behave with dignity as they bring the wonders of the day into my life. In a universe as suave as this one, no doubt I should be able to live with poise and self-assurance today.
(an elderly friend in Blessings, CT)
She finds it effortless
to fly inside herself,
to float and hover
in poised ways
inside the immeasurable life
the universe started sharing with her
so many years ago.
There is grandeur, she knows,
in going where the winds of life lead,
in letting goodness sail her along
to even more light and liberty
than she always has.
Hold on, she reminds herself,
and simply show the universe
that you totally trust it.
Today, I hope I can be aware of the limitless fullness of life. Each moment, even seemingly dull or dismal ones, will be brimming with charm. Even just pouring pancake batter onto the frying pan will be an accomplishment bursting at the seams with good fortune, and just chewing nuts and sipping espresso will be crowded with feelings of success – but only if I keep my mind and heart open. Life is always well-supplied with miracles – from the simplest thoughts, to sunlight settling on rain-soaked grass, to small sweet songs by wrens – and this day will be no different. Its hours will be filled with wall-to-wall opportunities and jam-packed with powers, all freely available for an 80-year-old boy named Hamilton. Let’s hope this dude can stay primed and open!
(about Braelyn J., 52, Blessings, CT)
One day, she felt fullness in her life,
and in all of life. There was wholeness
in all of her thoughts, as if each
thought was brimful and perfect. There
was a profusion in her feelings, almost
a swelling, like the sea swells in its
graceful comprehensiveness. The small
book she was reading seemed vast on this
immeasurable day, as though she held
a universe as she turned the pages, or
as if dollars overflowed in all the
sentences. Everything seemed complete,
even the dust she saw on the bedside
table – a prosperous and finished
dust it was, like this day that, for
some reason, released its riches for her.
When life seems difficult for me – when it seems like very hard work to make a day ‘successful’ – I hope I can remember that life is always a facilitator, never a slave-driver. Every moment of every day stands ready to make things easy for me. My loyal lungs, smoothly rising and falling over and over again, make it possible for fresh life to come to me, and the faithful blood in my veins and arteries smooths the way for success throughout the day. Each and every thought opens the door to a possible whole new view of life, and every feeling oils, in various and mystifying ways, the everlasting wheels of wisdom. The music of the hours of any day can clear the way for quiet understanding and appreciation. Even sitting in a straight-backed chair in silence can assist me in seeing more clearly the miracles made all around me all day long. Seemingly hard work can disappear into smoothness and success when I allow life itself to easily facilitate everything and make moment-by-moment peace possible.
AS EASY AS THAT
(writing near the Mystic River)
Two cars came by,
then a leaf left a tree,
then a pencil started
to move across paper.
It's as easy as that.
Did the sun strain
to rise this morning?
Do stars shine
because they work hard?
This old river rolls along.
It's as easy as that.
Below, some scenes from our early morning walk on Napatree Beach (RI) yesterday …
When I am faced with what seems to be a problem, it’s always a relief to realize that the distress caused by the problem – any problem – can easily be assuaged. The word ‘assuage’ comes from the old Latin word meaning ‘sweet’, so the word originally meant ‘to make sweet’ – and how good it is to get the news that any ostensibly sour situation can easily be sweetened. And how is this done? Well, simply by settling into peaceful stillness and remembering, once again, that all problems come from thoughts about situations, not from the situations themselves. Every situation is like a healthy piece of bread. I can either make it horrendous by spreading a red-hot sauce on it, or I can experience the inherent strength and sweetness in it by simply biting into it. It’s my choice – always. There’s health, somewhere and somehow, in every situation, even the truly awful ones, and any distress I might feel in facing a situation can be assuaged by looking carefully for the freshness and newness and strength and sweet wisdom somewhere inside it. At the very center of every moment, even unpleasant and smelly ones, there’s a secret sweetness that can easily assuage any sourness. I hope to be a better searcher for this sweet magic.
When sadness visited her,
he said to just hang on,
but she didn't understand
what to hang on to,
so she tried hanging on
to a favorite thought,
but soon the thought broke
and the breaking
almost broke her as well.
Then she tried
hanging on to happiness,
but it was wispy
and couldn't be grasped,
and always slipped away.
So then she decided
that hanging on
didn't help her,
so she stopped hanging on
and simply floated free
and found that relief and love
as long as
she didn't hang on.
Today, like all days, the universe will live simultaneously. I and all people and sliding snakes and well-prepared breakfasts and little yellow flowers will be existing in the present moment, at one and the same time. At the exact identical instant, several billion people, including me, will take in a new breath. Thoughts will flow in unison – kind ones and confused ones – in every nation, and feelings will roll along shoulder-to-shoulder everywhere, at the very same time. Whether we want to or not, we earth-dwellers live as a synchronized family. The universe is a vast and harmonious chorus, and today, as always, whether we know it or not, its song will be sung simultaneously, by one and all.
Harmony helps us breathe,
brings the sky its newness,
and knows how sorrows sing
with well-balanced wisdom.
Old trees harmonize
with the freshest sunshine,
and the youngest houses
help winter’s days
seem beautifully arranged.
There are magnificent designs
In breezes and noisy storms,
and also in the clumsiness
of our mistakes
and the occasional zigzagginess
of our days.
Harmony will always
quietly come to us
if we quietly ask.
I should be able, fairly easily, to practice devotion today, since life itself will be practicing it all around me. The present moment, to take the most wonderful example, will be constantly devoted to staying right beside me at all times, fair weather or foul. Every sight I see will also stay steadfastly there, as long as I’m seeing it. Sounds, even our clothes-washer swishing and whooshing, will be faithful in presenting themselves precisely as they are, and thoughts will come to me with quiet carefulness, committed to giving me the perfect thought for that moment. Outside, butterflies will bend their wings with attentiveness, and sunshine will faithfully give itself to trees and homes and lawns. Devotion will truly be everywhere today, so living with dedication should be fairly easy for an old and delighted 80-year-old boy. I could make each and every moment an object of devotion, even perhaps worship. I could show attentiveness even to my steps across the carpet in our house, and sometimes I could pause and observe my sacred breath, and maybe even make a dutiful bow to its miraculous performance. Living with devotion doesn’t get much easier than this!
(Harrison P., 61, Blessings CT)
He’s a believer
in living with devotion.
Every day, he revels
in all the living moments
as they evolve and revolve
through the infinite levels of his life.
He constantly feels revived
just by swerving into the next second
in the uneven but devout way
the universe – and he – lives.
I live with my wife in a small house on a small lot in a small town, but sometimes it becomes clear to me that my true home – my dominion, you might say – is far larger than that. The word ‘dominion’ stems from the Latin word domus, meaning ‘home’, and my real home is a vast one, stretching from the most distant stars to the deepest depths of the ocean. The truth is that, like all of us, I am an inseparable and essential part of a measureless universe. My home is not Mystic, Connecticut, USA, but the universe itself, a universe where all things, from new-born babies to massive spans of mountains, are of equal importance. We all share dominion in this dominion of ours, this universe that knows no end to its territories and provinces. From infinitesimal insects, to trees in forests, to presidents, to poor wanderers — we’re all kings and queens forever and everywhere — if only we knew it. This morning, lucky for me, I’m knowing it.
THE EMPIRE OF BLESSINGS
(about Patricia F., 46, Blessings, CT)
She calls the village of Blessings
a majestic empire,
a dominion administered
by each magnificent moment.
it’s the realm of royal trees
and their noble leaves,
of sovereign thoughts
and endless regal feelings.
Blessings is the territory of friendliness
and the province of conviviality.
Even small stones are kings and queens
and specks of swanky dust
on tables and chairs
call it their precious nation.
she’s one of countless rulers here,
along with princely winds
and stately sparrows
It will be fun today to notice and appreciate, in every moment, the true fabric of life – to fully comprehend that the ‘stuff ‘ of all of life is far more amazing than I have usually realized. Each moment today will be made of material that’s as astonishing as the distant stars, as elegant as early morning light. Thoughts will slide through me like the tissues of winds, and feelings will be like various cloths buffing and shining my old but youthful life. All the scenes I see today – even just pillows on a couch, or a plain pencil on a desk, or cars coming quietly along – will be the stuff of major miracles. All of the fabric of today – including disappointments and difficulties – will be somehow comfortable and encouraging. I just hope I can wrap it all around me with thankfulness.
(about a guy I know)
In his 80’s now, he sometimes sees
that life is, in fact, a soft thing,
something like a pillow prepared
to welcome whatever falls upon it.
He sees that burdensome sorrows
can actually rest easily on the pillow
life made for him in 1941. He sees
that life has a sweet, soft touch,
that it can be cordial to failure as well as
triumph, to suffering as well as success.
For the first time, he understands that life
is a cushion ready to receive whatever
lands on it, whether stones of grief
or feathers of pleasure. He sees that,no matter what’s happening,
life walks softly,
and loves to do its soft-shoe dance.