Tuesday, October 25, 2016

7:30 BELLS: Turning Windows into Doors

So much of our view of life depends on our windows. If our windows are in the wrong place, or too small, we miss so much. All of us are born into a house with the windows already in place. A house constructed by our family background, our culture, our education, and our religion. This "prefabrication" makes it hard to move the windows because we may not even realize a different view is possible.

We may feel pinched and uneasy, or sense that something is missing or wrong. The first sign may be that we can’t hear any bells ring through these windows. We don't feel fully alive.

So ask, "what am I missing?" Am I looking at the world squeezed through someone else’s determination of what I should see? Sometimes, to move the window, you start by tearing down the old walls.

When we move the windows or make them bigger, new light pours in. Windows can even turn into doors.

And we can hear the bells ring out.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

7:30 BELLS: After the Wind, a Presence

This morning I had a resonating experience on the river trail. I was surveying our damage from the typhoon remnant that blasted the Pacific Northwest this weekend. The Nisqually River Valley funnels big winds. During the storm, I held my breath several times, hoping the trees stayed in the air. They did—except one across the river. The apocalyptic forecast didn’t materialize—here.

As I dragged fallen branches off the trail, I heard a flock of birds crying. Most of the birds had already left for the winter. I looked up. Hundreds of sparrows fluttered and flapped in a big Douglas Fir. 

And then I saw why.

An owl perched on a branch, same gray-brown as the tree. Only white spots gave it away. And the owl was looking straight down at me. 

What a face! What an enormous face. He was a winged head. I’ve heard owls hoot here at night but have never seen one. Had the storm brought him out? Or had it brought me out to meet him?

We considered each other soberly, steadily—me looking up, the owl looking down. I was being measured in ways I couldn’t fathom. Would never fathom. That quality of fixed attention —for the first time I understood why owls are associated with wisdom. I understood this not from a book, or picture, or video, but from vivid experience.

This elemental way of experience the world so often eludes us. Listen for the unusual—like the gathering of sparrows after a storm—often a signal that something is different. And then take the time to stop and look up. Maybe you’ll meet a presence you’ve never met before.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

7:30 BELLS: Venturing Forth Alive into the Fullness of the Day

In the middle of the night, I woke to a plaintive, bugling cry. I sat up and looked toward out the open window toward the woods. The cry stopped. Seconds later it came again. Loud, and yet distant. Across the river? An animal to be sure. But what animal? An elk perhaps, but perhaps not.

We watched. Shone the flashlight. Listened as the cry repeated. After ten minutes, it stopped. I snuggled back under the blankets, feeling oddly alive from the night’s mystery.

The next morning was a brilliance of sun and wind. A perfect day for a walk. I strode across the field and woods. Leaves did their final dance from the cottonwoods to the ground. Clouds rushed, full of places been, places yet to come.

I felt alive and full of ringing bells. This moment became life penultimate. How extraordinary it was just to venture forth, to venture forth alive into the fullness of the day after mystery in the night.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

7:30 BELLS: Bullet Train or Buggy? Let the Vehicle Determine the Goal

Our goals and road we take to reach them are inextricably mixed. We envision the destination—the treasure, the shining city—then plan what road we need to take to get there. But do we ever consider the vehicle needed to travel down that particular road to our chosen destination? There are bikes. SUVs. Gilded carriages. Electric Cars. The vehicle we travel in determines our experience of the journey.

So what’s the relationship between the destination, the road, and the vehicle?

Consider the bullet train. If you choose a bullet train, you’ll speed to your destination on an undeviating track laid down by others, with a machine pilot. The landscape will be a passing blur. The bullet train can’t go down a winding country road. Can’t stop for scenic surprises. But it can get to the city fast.

Some destinations you can only reach in particular vehicles that travel on particular roads. Your chosen vehicle and your chosen road determine the types of destinations (goals) you can reach. A bullet train usually goes to cities. A horse drawn buggy would take years to roll into the shining city. But it can navigate narrow lanes and secret byways. Stop and start where your interest calls. A bullet train can’t.

How I journey down the road has become more important to me than the destination. Because the journey is all the hours of my life. It’s my experience of life. So I’ve decided to stop planning my life around a destination. Instead, I first choose the vehicle I want to travel in and the kind of road that suits it. Then, I choose my destination based on the way I prefer to travel.

And all other choices flow from that.