Fresh snow blankets the world, the wind was absent last evening as it fell, so it come straight down, settling into fluffy piles upon the surfaces. Every branch has become a small shelf allowing the snow to rest for a while, the spruce trees with their small, tight leaves hold the snow so well among the branches, each one piled high with snow, undisturbed. The lower branches are weighted down, touching the drifts that lay below. In this space, there is a silence that is felt, the sounds of the world further away as these heaps of snow slow and muffle the noises of life beyond the pasture edges. It is a silence I have felt before, in other settings, in other places, but it always brings the same sense of peace when it is here.
A lovely side effect of my meditation practice is a general slowing down of who I am. The time I spend ‘sitting’ is really more like practice for the rest of my day, for the rest of my life. In those moments where I turn my attention inward, I begin the process of slowing life down. I work on noticing the small things that make up each moment. Each breath becomes an opportunity to study what it means to breathe, to look at it more closely, to see if I can feel into the action a little more, to reveal some aspect that I have not yet discovered, to understand it more clearly. It is in paying such close attention to such a simple process that time begins to slow down, so that each breath begins to stretch out further and further. Within this altered time, details blossom into view, details that are not seen when speeding through the day. The way my throat opens slightly as I breath in, the subtle flexion of the neck and spine as the breath draws full. The slide of the shoulder blades to the sides as the air fills me up and the feeling of gentle tension as the breath reaches its peak, then the release as the exhale begins. The relief and relaxation as the exhale continues without effort to the bottom of the cycle, and the feeling of deep rest, when upon completion, prior to the next breath starting, there is this pause where nothing has to happen. This pause, this moment in time where it feels like the whole world is still, this is the feeling that is there today among the snowy branches.
Life is full these days, it is full of comings and goings, tasks to be done, patients to see, faxes to answer, the steady interruptions of the phone, each one seems to jangle the nervous system just a little bit. Each little request taps upon my inherent sense of urgency, my core belief that my value comes from service. Each one serving unspoken notice to me that I ‘should do this’ or I ‘must do that’, none of which is really true, just the programing that I have developed over the years to give my life meaning. In these moments, I can take a small break, and simply breathe, just one mindful breath, it is enough to settle my system. It is a moment in time to feel this spaciousness, this pause, that is ever present if only I slow down and turn toward it, which indeed, is the trick. To turn toward the breath, to turn toward the pause, to rest for just a moment. When I can accomplish this small thing, this little moment, it changes everything, whatever is constraining me begins to release. Whatever is pressing me seems to let up, what seems demanding takes a step back. In taking that small breath, there is a moment of spaciousness that opens before me the possibilities that did not previously exist.
Walking today among the spruce trees, each laden with snow upon the branches, the feeling of spaciousness, the feeling of quiet accompanies me along the way. With each step, the snowshoes crunch layers of snow, the sound itself barely able to escape from the snow that contains it. The cars on the road seem miles away, and in this place, in this time, it seems that only I exist among these snowy trees.
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