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 wise scholars who saw a strange solitary star in the sky and sought to follow it are somewhat similar to this still somewhat unwise senior citizen who tries his best to see before him the solitary star called ‘the present moment’. It’s always there, shining with a sunniness that can’t be equaled – the single moment in my life, right here and now, that lights all things with the power of the universe, and prepares a perfect way for me to live, if only I would notice it. Other lights are also there, of course – the worries that flash and flicker for my attention – but the single light of this present moment has the power to make all other lights soften and disperse. It’s all there is, really. It rises before me second after surprising second, day after day, and brings with it all the satisfaction I could possibly need. I live my life in unceasing starlight, the constant sparkle of the present moment. Sadly, I’m afraid I miss most of it.
I am surrounded by partners. I have my wife and family as loving and loyal comrades, and I’m also encircled by countless unseen, silent colleagues. For instance, I have my reliable lungs, those small, gossamer co-workers that lift and fall in fidelity as my life flows along. There’s my heart, too, a teammate as sure and steady as they come, faithfully performing its good service, no matter what worries and fears I may be feeling. And then, of course, there’s the air around me, extending out for endless miles, and entering my life through my breath, moment after moment, day and night, in the steadiest and calmest way possible. Even if I’m swept away by the worst of worries, the vast universe of air, my loyal companion, keeps sending me its gift of breath.
I hope I can always be grateful for these trusty companions.
Today, as on all days, there’s a system that’s working flawlessly to preserve the infinite and fruitful unity of everything – and I am an essential part of that system. It’s a process that’s seen in the tapping of my fingers on the computer keyboard, the kindly flow of breezes among tree limbs and leaves, the sunlight that lets its miracles move smoothly along even on the darkest days. The universe that I am part of is a generous arrangement of ever-productive forces, and today, as always, I will have the fun of witnessing and participating in those forces in their smooth efficiency. Moments will marshal themselves with expertise, thoughts will mastermind their wondrous mental powers, feelings will choreograph beautiful dances, squirrels will scamper in meticulous ways, and my old lungs will lift and fall with newborn fastidiousness. My part in this ever-perfect process is to listen, watch, welcome, and – of course – joyfully join in!
Below is our beautiful sunroom today, with Delycia’s spectacular amaryllis plants…
A good synonym for the word ‘life’ might be ‘surprise’, because that’s exactly what life is – a constant, astonishing surprise. Of course, only occasionally do I notice this aspect of life, the way each moment softly breaks open with a fresh, first-hand bombshell. Life can sometimes seem tediously predictable, like the ‘same old stuff’ moment after moment after moment, but underneath all the seeming staleness of everyday life there lies a whole universe of unforeseen surprises. In fact, each moment of my life, today and everyday, is a total revelation – a thunderbolt of unconditional novelty. 5:20:07 a.m. – right now as I write – should take my breath away with its newness. Nothing like it has ever existed in the billions of years of the universe – and the same is true for all the moments forever. I should probably always look dumbfounded and dazed, enough to make Delycia say, with concern, ‘Are you okay?’, to which I could respond, ‘Yup. Just totally astonished by the surprises, as usual.’
A poem on a similar theme …
And a poem from today …
WORDS LIKE LIGHT
Tuesday, September 21, 2021
In these days of apparent worldwide disorder and skepticism, my goal is to be trusting. After all, I am part of an infinite universe that has been unfolding beautiful miracles for billions of years, so why shouldn’t I step back, set aside my personal wishes and preferences, and trust this miraculous universe to proceed with its plans? I guess I need to be more childlike – more willing to simply stare in wonder at the amazing mysteries that disclose themselves each moment. I want to be an ingenuous 79-year-old guy who gives his complete trust to whatever happens. This doesn’t mean I will always like what happens, or that I will weakly stand aside and let hardship have its day. On the contrary, trusting the universe means standing – and staying – right in the center of whatever’s happening, thereby finding the cease-fire and victory that is always available in every situation, no matter how grim. The truth is that ‘I’ don’t really have to do anything today, since this inestimable universe of ours will be doing everything that needs to be done – giving me new breath each moment, new feelings and thoughts, new and spectacular scenes to see, new adventures to share in. I should be wide-eyed with wonder all day as the shoreless and imperious river of the universe tirelessly moves me along.
BE AND LET AND TRUST
(Andy H., 70, Blessings, CT)
the universe works well
without his help.
The trees in winds can work their waves
and bends with no input from him,
and clouds float soft and light
without his crackerjack advice.
Good breath lifts up his lungs
with ease and poise,
and he’s amazed
to feel them rise and fall.
he never has to take control,
since life does all the work.
He only has to be,