Monday, August 22, 2011

Teachers are everywhere

I received three teachers this past week.

One teacher in a conversation with a friend which set me up to be still by asking me to default to do nothing and to listen to the wisdom and messages in my emotions.

A second teacher in a card from a friend who reminded me of who I am at the core of my being and no matter what challenges I am facing this core will not change unless I give permission for the change.

The third teacher was a tree. My two friends tilled the soil of my heart so I could hear this third teacher.
There was a strong storm that blew through town and took down two large branches off two trees in our backyard. The branches skimmed the house and caused no damage. The next morning I took my friend’s advice and defaulted to doing nothing. I set my lounge chair under the large tree that lost a limb and listened.
 I asked what it is like to be a tree.

The tree’s roots absorb water to feed the tree
The tree’s trunk supports the branches
The tree’s branches stretch the leaves toward the sun
The tree’s leaves supply nutrients

Singular purpose

The tree’s roots absorb water to feed the tree – drink water to feed my cells
The tree’s trunk supports the branches – strengthen body for those stormy days
The tree’s branches stretch the leaves toward the sun – stretch my body for flexibility
The tree’s leaves supply nutrients – eat nutritious food

My purpose

The next day I read this in Mark’s book.
All of us face challenges in life because this is the nature of the human experience.

Be brave, default to do nothing and listen to your teachers.
The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo

Teachers arise from somewhere within me that is beyond me, the way the dark soil that is not the root holds the root and feeds the flower.

So often we think of ourselves as freestanding and in charge, because we have the simple blessing of being able to go where we want. But we are as rooted as shrubs and trees and flowers, in an unseeable soil that is everywhere. It’s just that our roots move.

Certainly, we make our own decisions, dozens every day, but we are nourished in those decisions by the very ground we walk, by the quiet teachers we encounter everywhere. Yet in our pride and confusion, in our self-centeredness and fear, we often miss the teachers and feel burdened and alone.

In trying to hear those quiet teachers, I am reminded of the great poet Stanley Kunitz, who as a young man struggling darkly with how to proceed with his life, heard geese cross a night sky and somehow he knew what he had to do. Or how a man I know was slowly extinguishing himself, sorely depressed, when, finally exhausted of his endless considerations, he heard small birds in snow in unexpected song. He realized he was a musician who needed to find and learn the instrument he was supposed to play.

From the logic of being freestanding and in charge, experiences of this sort seem crazy-making and untrustworthy. But the soil of life on which we grow speaks a different language than we are taught in school. In actuality, through and love and the spirit of eternity are rarely foreseeable, and clarity of being seldom comes through words.

In my brief time on Earth, I have felt the light of the ageless spirit fill me unexpectedly when I thought I would die, and as water pumps its way up a slim root making that plant leaf out toward the light, I have found myself, against all fear and will, flushed with possibility in the direction of dreams I had hardly imagined.

Whether through birds in snow , or geese honking in the dark, or through the brilliant wet leaf that hits your face the moment you are questioning your worth, the quiet teachers are everywhere. When we think we are in charge, their lessons dissolve as accidents or coincidence. But when brave enough to listen, the glass that breaks across the room is offering us direction that can only be heard in the roots of how we feel and think.