At 6:30 AM from my balcony, behind the palms and under the oaks, the sky is deep orange and pink. The trees look black in this still-soft rising light. Out here there are no problems only trees, birds, breezes and flowers. This is true no matter what problem I was keeping alive indoors. Once I step out into the world, letting go simply happens with no effort on my part. The air, the rising sun, the plants, and trees absorb my anxiety, coax me to breathe again, to open my heart and drop my mask. The energy coursing in everything, including me, is silent. The only sounds that come and go at this hour are mockingbird songs, doves cooing, parrots and crows squawking, an occasional car growling down the street.
The air is exceptionally cool for this time of year in Florida and this would be an ideal time and place for meditation. But I have my coffee cup in my hand and still feel groggy. It occurs to me that I could keep my eyes open for this mediation and use the sky as my meditation focal point.
It’s a clumsy meditation; I am primarily caught by my chaotic thoughts. Eyes open I know the answer is to look up and remember the sky—just the sky. Wide open and empty—such relief. I watch my mind: thinking, thinking, sky, thinking, thinking, sky…: cluttered mind, open sky. Well, what do you know… That spaciousness that the Buddha talks about is just outside my door.
Everything humans needed was once just outside their shelter.
Even now after white people, like myself, have stolen the land from the Native Americans, carved it up, depleted its soil, paved it over, built buildings that dwarf the remaining trees, and still “dream” of owning what land that remains and still build yet more structures to “protect themselves from the “wilderness” from “the elements—even now we need windows, French doors, open floor plans, space, lots of space.
Why do we so long for more room, a vista, a view? Maybe we long for home: the space in which life flows, effortless. We are homesick. We miss the sky, the birds, and the open plains of grasses. The Native Americans and the white settlers were never simply different colored skins in bodies. We shared a true home as the Native Americans tried to tell us: the space that is complete and filled with only what is real and needed. The place that is everywhere, filled with the knowledge of water and fire, of animals and insects. We think we covet any place with a view. We pay top dollar to see mountains or ocean as if they were pictures in a museum—not live, not real. We “enjoy the view” before we return to a reality that is covered in concrete.
We sit in our offices or our living rooms and long for what we call “vacation.” W call it “recharging our batteries” —not such an exaggeration since we have forgotten the source of our energy. Where do we go to “recharge”? Outside. Out to breathe again. Out to be quieted by mountains and lakes.
We return to what is “full” of life: commerce, chatter, control, capital and terror. We fear what is empty because even as we yearn for it, we have forgotten what spaciousness really is.
There are no such things as emptiness in the world. Even in the sky there were no vacant places. Everywhere there was life, visible and invisible, and every object possessed something good for us to have also—even the stones…The world teemed with life and wisdom; there was no complete solitude for the Lakota. —Luther Standing Bear
We yearn for what we destroyed—our true selves, our true home. We did not know we were destroying a part of ourselves that shares our atoms with every other living thing. We scramble to the beaches to bask in simplicity and non-doing. We rush to what is left of the wilderness to “get away from it all,” but not for long. We set aside so little time for our return home; we give it so little meaning. The Native American knew her/his body was of the soil, the water, the fire, the air. Buddhists know the same and meditate on the elements that pulse and move in the aggregate body we think is so solid. The Buddhist Forest Monks in Thailand sit in the charnel grounds watching the body’s elements fly into the air, flow to the ground, settle back into the soil. They sit on the ground meditating.
The man who sat on the ground in his tipi meditating on life and its meaning, accepting the kinship of all creatures and acknowledging unity with the universe of things, was infusing into his being the true essence of civilization. —Luther Standing Bear
When I was in college in the 70’s, we learned of various Native American elders and shamans who had called for people to forgo their walled compounds and recognize the physical and spiritual bounty of earth. Some of us went to live from the land and leave the cities behind. But we were no match for the minds warped by the power and wealth the European ancestors passed down as a soul sickness to their 20th century relatives.
“When the Earth is sick, the animals will begin to disappear, when that happens, The Warriors of the Rainbow will come to save them.”—Chief Seattle, Dwamish
Perhaps the “rainbow warriors” who were prophesied to save Mother Earth and its creatures are among us. Their numbers are growing: patient and persistent environmental activists and “warrior bodhisattvas” who promise to remain with us, and guide us until we are awake again.
But why should I mourn at the untimely fate of my people? Tribe follows tribe, and nation follows nation, like the waves of the sea. It is the order of nature, and regret is useless. Your time of decay may be distant, but it will surely come, for even the White Man whose God walked and talked with him as friend to friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers after all. We will see. —Chief Seattle, Dwamish