In my quest for a harmonious life I understand the need to be still. Certain tools help in that effort:
Reading, to organize my thoughts.
Praying, to tap into my soul, drawing me closer to God.
Time spent outdoors, especially in the Spring, to quiet myself.
The landscape is slowly coming to life here in New England and when I see signs of Spring, I think of Henry David Thoreau. His intimate knowledge of the outdoors came from a sense of mindfulness–no detail missed his watchful eye. He took the time to be still and observe. And in following that simple maxim, the world revealed itself to him.
New book on Thoreau
I recently reviewed a book on my Louisa May Alcott blog by Corinne Hosfeld Smith (certified tour guide of the Thoreau birthplace and author of Westward I Go Free: Tracing Thoreau’s Last Journey) calledHenry David Thoreau for Kids:
I welcomed this book because while I have always appreciated Thoreau’s message, I find his his works difficult to get through. The writing is dense, demanding your full attention. Many of us suffered through high school and college English classes with his classic Walden. And yet, that message of a different way of living got through to me even though I could not begin to digest all the words.
Making Thoreau concrete
What I loved about Henry David Thoreau for Kids were the twenty-one activities geared for middle school students that help you live out his ideas. Many of these activities are just as engaging for adults.
I was intrigued by the exercise which encouraged the participant to sit outdoors for thirty minutes in total silence, waiting for wildlife to appear. Sure enough, after a few moments birds and other creatures come close for observation. I was eager to try this exercise in my quest to be still.
Stillness, however, does not come easily in this busy world so I was grateful that Smith recommended another exercise to help me focus–creating a sound map.
Sitting in my lawn chair, I sketched the area you see here in my notebook and every time I heard a sound from nature, I drew an “x” where I thought I heard it and wrote down what it was. As you can see, I heard quite a bit!
From listening to observing
In the listening, I began to appreciate the visual imagery around me.
Stillness opens the inner eye
Stillness and mindfulness are hard to achieve in this high tech, multi-tasking, noisy world. Patience and due diligence are rewarded however with the opening of the inner eye, that which sees beauty and truth around us and eventually, within us. It’s a simple truth really: the wonder of life and how it was created, and how we are lucky to be alive despite all the challenges.
A compatriot of Thoreau’s, Ralph Waldo Emerson, once wrote of the transparent eyeball, an expression for which he was mocked. Wikipedia explains it this way:
“The transparent eyeball is a philosophical metaphor originated by Ralph Waldo Emerson. The transparent eyeball is a representation of an eye that is absorbent rather than reflective, and therefore takes in all that nature has to offer.”
Emerson experienced an epiphany that day–the discovery of the ability to read between the lines in the world around him, and come to an understanding of a deeper existence within him.
Once that eye is opened …
… you never want it to close. All of a sudden, the smallest things become lovely, compelling, even exciting. Once I became mindful of what surrounded me in the natural world, I couldn’t get enough of it, especially when it came to bird watching and kayaking.
And once I made a commitment to pay attention to what was there inside of me, allowing myself to to be drawn closer to my Creator, I find I can’t get enough of that either.
Silence is becoming an elixir.
I understand from the great mystics that you can learn to be quiet and still even in the midst of noise and chaos. Wouldn’t that be something! Somehow I think a bunch of people with that kind of inner harmony could truly change the world for the good. Think about it.
Your time of stillness
Try spending thirty minutes in the woods, in a field or by a pond this Spring. Create your own sound map and share it here. Let’s compare notes and find out how we are doing on our journey to harmony.
You can find out more about Henry David Thoreau for Kidshere, and read about the author, Corinne Hosfeld Smith, here.
Many people find coloring to be a wonderful way to relax and experience harmony in their lives. Is that you? Join my Email List to subscribe to this blog and receive your free Harmony coloring book (and more).
This is an amazing initiative by Tinykittens.com with a feral colony of cats. The first experiment, that of trapping a pregnant feral so that she could give birth in in a warm and safe place resulted in her four kittens being totally socialized and adopted out to loving families while the mother cat was returned to the colony where she would be the happiest.
How many of us remember making mud pies? Hiking in the woods? Splashing in a stream? Observing birds and butterflies? Every kid needs to experience the outdoors and this program offers some amazing options.
As an avid kayaker familiar with its therapeutic benefits, I can see how this would be a tremendous benefit to our vets.
As you all seemed to enjoy the video I posted of Sarah Hart singing “Praying from a Broken Heart” so I thought I’d share this:
October 26, 2013 – Sarah Hart singing in St. Peter’s Square for Pope Francis and a crowd of 150,000; Sarah meeting the Pope at the end of the video
Today I started reading a book entitled The Naked Now by Richard Rohr. I originally planned on reading it because a group I belong to, the Commission of Women of the Diocese of Worcester, chose this book as the one they wished to study this year. A dear friend of mine, a deacon in the Catholic Church, had also highly recommended it.
Rohr aims to teach the reader to see as the mystics see.
I have long resisted the notion of being a mystic though this same friend insisted that I be open to the idea. The pragmatist in me, the one who is unimpressed with splashy theatrics and celebrity, would have nothing to do with it. I saw no connection between my earthly life and supposed “heavenly visions.” I mistakenly connected mysticism with crying statues; I wanted nothing to do with it.
However, the creative in me, now being regularly exercised with reading and study, began to speak up and say,
“Hold on a minute. Maybe there is more to this than meets the eye.”
And my inner self, also exercised daily with prayer and reflection, objected too.
The Naked Now is now affirming something I’ve been experiencing ever since I started all this exercising: this newfound ability to “read between the lines,” and it is growing exponentially.
Rohr spells out three ways to view the world through a simple example: how three people view a sunset. One simply enjoys the beauty, nothing more. A second enjoys the beauty and understands the science behind a sunset, giving him extra insight.
The third not only appreciates the beauty and perhaps the science, but also “tastes” the experience. His vision enables him to transcend the physical experience to something mystical.
Rohr calls this seeing with the “third eye.” And I knew exactly what he meant.
I experienced that kind of vision all summer long in my lunchtime walks through the woods, past streams and alongside the lake at Wellesley College. Some of these experiences were quite intense, most especially my kayak trip on Lake Waban.
And I had noticed this vision even before the summer.
Reading the Bible had always been a difficult and dry experience. I simply could not understand what it was trying to tell me. However, last year I began to experience a strange sensation while reading: my mind and my heart would be literally flooded with ideas and insights. It was thrilling and a little scary. It was like God was chattering at me!
I don’t remember when I began acquiring this “third eye” but I am guessing it is connected to a few newer habits in my life: challenging reading, journaling and blogging, and set times for prayer. (This blog is a result of those new habits.)
I allowed myself to be carried in the flow of God’s will, just like my kayak floats down river. I went with the flow and without realizing it, accepted an invitation from God to go deeper with my faith.
I didn’t really know what was happening but had a sense that it was better to just “go with it” rather than to question.
And now, I have a book that will explain what’s been happening.
And the best part is, you can experience this too.
Everyone is called to be a mystic. It’s what Jesus intended. It was not just for those saints we see commemorated in statues and prayer cards.
Jesus means for each of us to experience this “third eye,” a direct result of a close, intimate relationship with Him.
The closer we get, the better we see.
And that’s when life really starts to take off. Surrounded by and immersed fully in this Divine love, we can experience what Henri Nouwen wrote in that post I highlighted the other day, “It is in the heart of God that we can come to the full realisation of the unity of all that is, created and uncreated.”