Clearing, by Martha Postlewaite
Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to this world
so worth of rescue.
As I near the end of my third month of sabbatical, I look back at how I have spent my time…what habits or routines I’ve started, stopped, or cultivated…and what challenges I’ve faced. Sometimes I’m able to identify a challenge as life-long. And other times it is a new challenge, but usually rooted in something life-long. It is an interesting process that is not exactly appealing to some people but many of you will totally understand. It’s the process of continual exploration into who I am.
Many contemplative practices encourage us to sit with the question, “Who am I?” There is no goal or expectation to come up with a “right” answer. There is no right answer or even an answer. By exhausting the mind to come up with answers the meditator comes to the realization that there is only the question. And usually determines that the question is not important. I often say that questions are more important than the answers and what I mean by that is that the question isn’t important but the asking of the question is important. Because it’s in the questioning that we see life as it really is.
I have always been a deep thinker. And over my lifetime I’ve learned to take nothing and everything personally. Everything I come across is an opportunity for inquiry of the big questions…who am I? Why am I here? For some, religion answers those questions and they need no further understanding. I respect that. It just doesn’t work for me.
My life experience is one big metaphor. For example, my struggle with finding just the right prescription of contact lenses…at one point I realized that I could see the big beautiful world clearly and in sharp focus, but it was difficult to read without the help of reading glasses. I saw this experience as a great metaphor of my life/sabbatical because I can clearly see the big picture of what I’m doing but I tend to get lost on the details.
I sometimes question what I’m doing this year. I continue to should on myself too much. I should meditate more. I should read more. I should exercise more. I should eat better. I should volunteer more. I should engage with the sangha more. And then a voice deep within says, “There is nothing you should do.” And I’m reminded that I entered this year with a sense of, “Leap and the net will appear.” Perhaps I’m waiting for something to appear; to show up. Maybe I’m looking for that ever precious “Ah Ha!” moment that proves my decision to go forth into contemplation has significance and meaning. But maybe just showing up and staying with it is all that’s called for.
Maybe, as Martha Postlewaite so elegantly put it, (oh how I wish I had the rhythm of a poet!) this is my “clearing in the dense forest of your life.”
And so I will continue to wait patiently and trust that even at the end of this year if no questions are answered, it will be enough to have asked the questions, so that I may fully and without question, give myself, “to this world so worth of rescue.”