Friday, April 2, 2010

The God Rock, and a Lesson In Mindfulness...

"And life is available only in the present moment.
If you abandon the present moment you cannot

live the moments of your daily life deeply."

"My suggestion is that Jesus is very close, if you
have the kind of eyes that are free from attachment
and you can recognize him at anytime and anywhere.

Both quotes are from the teachings of
Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Buddhist Monk...

A couple of days ago I was out watering the garden. My mind was full of a thousand different things, I wasn't living in the present moment, I wasn't being mindful, and I tripped over a tree root that runs above the ground and fell flat on my back. For a minute I saw stars. I was thinking that I probably wouldn't be able to move the next day. I was cursing the tree root, still lying in the dirt. I was afraid to move, I had hit the ground pretty hard, and just as I was about to drag myself up from the dirt I reached out and my hand touched something hard. I looked in amazement at one of the most wondrous rocks I had ever seen. I saw God in that rock, and I got up clinging to it.

No, I was not being mindful. I was not remembering where I was. You see, when I looked at this property one of the things that I loved was that there were huge old trees all around, front and back. All kinds of trees. But the ground is very hard and the tree roots run all over the place near my garden, above ground, and quite solid. I have tripped over them before when I was out walking little Babs, my blind and deaf pug, but this time I really went crashing to the ground, knocking over a big bucket that had rooted cuttings, and little trees I will be planting. It was half full of water and when I fell it washed all over me. I wasn't just lying on the ground, I was wet and muddy and mad. But then, there was that rock. Thich Nhat Hanh's beautiful teaching just fit with my first reaction when I called it The God Rock. Jesus is everywhere, if only we have eyes to see. The holy, the sacred, are in every single thing around us. How beautiful that is, I think now, even if you are lying on the ground in muddy water, you are surrounded by spirit, you are never alone.

I brought the rock in, washed it off, and held it in my hand somewhat amused. It looks very like a misshapen baked potato. It is quite heavy and very smooth. For a few moments I meditated on that rock, letting my eyes drift out of focus and the rock seemed to glow. I felt electrified. I knew I had to always have this rock near me, and it will sit on my altar, I will hold it while I meditate, for it will always remind me of the day I fell because I was a million miles away, not paying attention, not being mindful, the present moment behind the dark clouds of worry, one of those out-of-body times when we don't seem to connect with the earth. Well, I connected with the earth alright, all the way, flat on my back. It was a wake up call, and the rock was right there as a gift for me, to remind me, once again, to live in the present moment. The past is gone, the future not here yet. All we have is this moment, and if we live it fully, our lives open up as wide as the sky and fathoms deep.

My rock, my rock, my God Rock. And this holy rock helped me make a very important decision. As the ground is not only covered with tree roots running everywhere in every direction on the earth's surface, the ground hard as concrete in this particular area, and there are also many dips and concave areas that I could easily twist my ankle and fall in. I was going to have a load of cheap dirt dumped there and the ground graded and smoothed out, covering tree roots and uneven places, but the rock said No. I realized that these tree roots and uneven ground were an opportunity to practice mindfulness, and now when I go outside I thank the tree roots, the hard earth, the leaves coming out now that spring has arrived to lend shade in our hot coastal summers, oh, the many gifts these tree roots bring. They will not be covered up, and I will pay attention and step over them mindfully, thanking each one of them for bringing me back to the present moment.

The past is gone, the rock said, and worrying about the future does no good. Be Here Now, as Ram Dass wrote. Be here with the tree roots, the rocks, the garden, each seed sprouting, the water coming out of my new grey hose, the birds at my many feeders, and my makeshift birdbath, an old bundt pan on a small and very old and rusting wrought iron table. The birds and the squirrels drink out of it and bathe and even Big Dog Moe took a drink out of it yesterday when all the dogs and I were outside. It's not a fancy birdbath which is not in the budget just yet, but it serves it's purpose.

I stood, later, looking out of my kitchen window at that little birdbath and the feeder just outside. I looked past my windowsill filled with little bottles and vases filled with wisteria, a white iris, fragrant narcissus, impatiens cuttings rooting, and my big cobalt blue wine bottles now each holding a stalk of curly bamboo on either side of the sink. I thought my little bottles and flowers on my windowsill were the most beautiful things in the world. I bowed to them. I bowed to the chickadee at the feeder, the blue jay, and then a squirrel drinking water from the old bundt pan, I saw the tree roots running across the ground like snakes and I bowed to them. They are all my teachers. I picked up my God Rock and I said thank you. No worries, no cares, no past, no future, just the present moment.

Just now I have my sleeping, snoring pug Sampson next to me on the arm of my chair where he always is when I am sitting here. This over-sized old chair and huge ottoman are not much to look at, but they are home to Sam and I. The other dogs are lying around me sleeping and my rock is lying on my stomach. I pick it up. It is cool to the touch and it's weight is comforting. I have been getting to know my rock.

It looks and feels very smooth, but on closer examination it has a few tiny pock marks, one dark spot, some kind of hard, rough, white crust the size of the tip of my little finger on it, looking very like an amoeba. It fits in my hand perfectly. I hold it against my cheek and it's cool, smooth surface makes my whole body relax. God is in this rock, and I am so grateful that it was right there amongst the tree roots when I needed it. That rock helped me get up off the ground and not feel sorry for myself. I didn't even feel the pain (until later), I simply felt a sense of wonder, and, dripping with water and mud, covered with dirt, I carefully walked over the tree roots and back into the house.

This rock is a powerful teacher, and it's lessons I will not soon forget. My rock is now a focal point in my life, and when I wander off in my mind to places past and future, the rock brings me back.

Thich Nhat Hanh wrote a little book called Present Moment, Wonderful Moment. It is small, spare, and very beautiful. I'm going to reread it now, with my rock on my stomach, and even my aching back, shoulder, arm and wrist keep me in the present moment. And there will be no dirt to cover the tree roots and the little valleys in the ground. Without them I would go ambling about in the yard drifting away missing such wonders as a lady bug on a leaf, a wee little pug snuffling in the dead leaves on the ground, a squirrel scurrying away from a feeder as a tufted titmouse lands on another feeder across the way. What a gift that fall turned out to be, and the Universe provided me with a rock to help me live as I should, mindfully, and realizing that God is everywhere, in a tree root, a rock, and the air that I breathe. It is all sacred. All a mystery. All beautiful and magnificent.

I bow once again in gassho, the Buddhist posture one makes to another in greeting, bending over with the palms of the hands pressed together, saying a single word, Namaste. With the word and the gesture you acknowledge the Divine in the person opposite you, and they, in bowing back, acknowledge the same. I bow to the tree roots, to the sky, to the moon, the stars, and to my rock. In the present moment each and every thing around me brings me back to myself, and even the little round bottom and tail of the little pug leaning against me make me realize that I am here, I am alive, I am breathing in and breathing out with a rock on my stomach, and I feel blessed. I will now send this entry off into cyberspace, and I will have a time of meditation and prayer. How full of grace is each moment, if only we have eyes to see.

My rock, my pug, the whirring sound of the fan overhead, as well as the breeze coming in the windows are all part of my present moment. I take a few seconds before I sign off and leave you to bow to you in gassho. Take a deep breath and feel it inside of you. I see the divine in you. As you breathe, slowly, in and out, find your center and feel the divine inside of you. It is always there. Never forget that.

Namaste, dear friends. I thank you for sharing this space with me.


Mishieru said...

Thanks for sharing this to us Maitri. It's true, our eyes and minds are being clouded with all the things in the world that we forget the most important thing of all, God. I hope and pray that God will open my eyes to see Him above all.

Intrepid said...

I'm sorry to hear about your fall but relieved to hear that it brought you good fortune. It reminded me of a rock I once brought back from a beach I visited. I later read that to take anything away from that particular beach just brought you bad luck and so everytime something bad happened I ended up blaming the rock so that even though I didn't believe the curse in the first place it had me convinced by the end. I loved the rock but in I just had to leave it at my old house because I could no longer take the chance.

Laane said...

Do you know that covering the roots of trees prolong their lives?

So maybe there's even more to the experience. You need to take better care of yourself too.
You worry me when I hear about your fall, how spiritual it was.

Happy easter!

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Lin said...

I like your rock story, but Maitri, I think you need to return your rock friend back by the tree. It will serve you as a reminder to watch the tree roots, but also that god is there (everywhere) when you need him....and when you don't. Rock needs to feel the sun on its face and the cool ground on its backside--just like you. (Okay, so you got to feel the cool earth rather harshly.) :)

Free the rock, Maitri! Let the birds, flowers, and animals get to know the rock too.

dondi said...

I am a very religious person. My work in the Hospital and my blogging is a gift from Him. He is our Rock and our Defender. Everyday we always seek Him through a family worship before doing anything else in the morning.We have nothing to fear for the future except we forget how the Lord had lead us in the past and His providence in our past history.

Victoria SkyDancer said...

Mm, I could feel the mojo in the rock just by looking at its picture! I know he will be, and is, a most excellent guide and teacher. Blessings to my Sister of the Stone People - and some extra healing juju your way to ease the last of the ache from your august person...

Blessed Be,

imelda said...

thanks for sharing this beautiful is so inspiring

sandy said...

I always feel the presence when outside enjoying nature. Enjoying the beauty of the trees made by him especially. I find nature full of spirituality.

Nice post

Katherine ( Katie) Corrigan said...

Namaste sweet Maitri, what a lovely post.

imelda said...

got back here to check on updates

May said...

I stopped by your post and simply enjoyed it. Look forward to reading more of your posts.

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