I walk past the tall, noble Tree and stop to look up, up at her bare, elegant limbs. Everything in the cosmos is contained in the majesty of her presence: The sun, a cloud, rain, earth, and snow lightly burdening her more delicate branches. Small beings live on her limbs and trunk while others burrow into the soil and her expansive roots, carrying on conversations with other trees. Many birds come to rest upon her, singing their distinctive melodies as she hums her eternal tree-song. After a small bow to her, I walk home at a slower pace. The Tree knows me, and I remember something not unknown. Her boughs rustle and wave, yet there is no breeze today.
Solitude and contemplation opened a portal to me one year ago. The world awakened to Covid, and soon, many of us in the United States sheltered-in-place. While the realities of a global pandemic and its impact on humankind created a degree of seclusion, most of my isolation was self-imposed. I considered others’ plight wrapped in fear and anxiety while I stood at a precipice and finally jumped into contemplating the authenticity of my own life. I focused on what I had and had not given attention to in my heart and soul. It was an awakening and not, at times, ecstatic or joyful. I disciplined my years of playing with meditation into an intentional act and saw more clearly my lingering arrogance and more. It was humbling.
Two themes revisited me in almost every meditation. I pondered them, read what I could find, and found nothing you do not already know. Nonetheless, they are important, and I see them, perhaps, through a different lens.
Reconciliation. We experienced a madness that consumed our country and stunned the globe before and following our election process. Hate and anger spewed sludge in all news and, sadly, from people I know. We versus Them remain the mantra of our times. Observing the riots, I pondered why the hate, why the anger. I reached within for compassion and understanding. After all, we are not born to hate or succumb to the cancer of anger and violence. However, my thoughts scared me for I, too, am capable of violence. It is part of the human condition, which we are here to manage, to overcome.
We know our nation needs to reconcile between warring factions politically, socially, racially, faith beliefs, and most assuredly, one human being’s actions towards another. The fractious behavior among our leaders (not all) continues to perpetuate division, enabling the malignancy of social and economic injustices, we against them, to remain. This discord, this discontent is not our cosmology nor the reason for our existence. I took a hard look into my heart’s understanding of why people hurt and seek vengeance towards a group or individual. Certainly, in my small, singular life, I have hurt, even damaged, others.
Reconciliation requires a willingness to listen deeply, a genuine wanting to understand the underbelly of another’s point-of-view, and courage to meet face-to-face (not via tweets, zoom, emails, or phone calls) in dialogue with those who hold different views from one’s own. Reconciliation can be genuine communication if it comes from a brave heart and a mind cleared of one-sidedness. I have no answers to how we heal a nation except for one heart, one extended hand in truth, and again, willingness, courage, and I add kindness. This we need to do one step, hour, and a day at a time.
Oneness: We all share the same cosmic DNA. While I don’t believe in the God of the bible, or in a supernatural Being, I do know there is something, a Great Consciousness, that is vast and loving in our universe. Some call this Consciousness God or Goddess, Jesus, Mother Earth, Great Spirit, Allah—and more names that present us with a Divine Mystery, which cannot be solved. Nevertheless, we are all part of this Mystery, this dance-of-life.
Many of us disconnected ourselves from Mother Earth. She is a great teacher, but one has to want to look, listen, and see. Do we stop to inhale scents of pungent earth and wild Mountain-laurel or feel the heartbeat of billions of living beings we see and cannot see? How do we listen to the trees and plants communicating as we now know they do? Do we give gratitude for the nutrients our Mother Earth provides to us? Without compassion for Mother Earth’s diversity, can we genuinely embrace one another and our many, various cultures and races with unbiased love saying, you are the same kind of different as me? (A movie title based on a true story.) When we inhale the scent of spring, bursting with renewed life, something stirs within our spirit and sheds hardened shards from our hearts. We remember things that are not unknown. So, yes, we can understand, embrace, and love those not like us. And if for no other reason more powerful than we are all a part of the whole, eternity, we need to learn to reconcile our own hearts and, then, with others.
I continue my solitary, contemplative journey. It is what I am given to do. I do not engage with any news or social media. I subscribe to Today’s Edition Newsletter by Robert Hubbell (firstname.lastname@example.org), which provides me with essential headlines and an informed discussion. I live in the rich simplicity that was voluntary at one point in my life and imposed at another. Contemplation and solitude teach me how to reconcile my inner conflicts and those with the world. I haven’t arrived as the Buddha did and never will. However, I have learned every moment is sacred; every task can be an opportunity for contentment and joy.
Following are images I created these past months. They are my offering to you. Enjoy!
For the 500,000 plus lives in our country and more around the world who are no longer with us, may their memory be a blessing.
~ May we embrace All beings as brothers and sisters, for each one of us is a part of The Divine Mystery ~