Last week I experienced something astounding. For the first time, sinking as deeply into awareness as possible, I headed into the safe harbor of stillness in the middle of an emotional storm.
I quietly watched the whirling emotions and thoughts, saying “hello and good-bye” to each of the fuming, seemingly endless “should haves” and “if onlys” that populated this particularly painful episode of self-deprecation. I managed this even as I drove into town to do errands, while walking through the streets and interacting with shopkeepers, even in the brightness of an unexpected meeting with friends.
What happened over the day and into the evening is exactly what Wendell Berry describes in this poem:
I go among the trees and sit still. / All my stirring becomes quiet / Around me like circles on water. / My tasks lie in their places / Where I left them, asleep like cattle…
Then what I am afraid of comes. / I live for awhile in its sight. / What I fear in it leaves it, / And the fear of it leaves me. / It sings, and I hear its song.
A week later my task — what is asking to be transformed — still looms in all of its slumbering, lumbering largeness. What is different today is I am now able to approach it. Singing, or at least humming.
What I didn’t notice was the tea kettle’s whistle several times this past week, my attention inclined toward a wider view, oblivious to some of the necessary minutiae of daily life. In the spirit of awareness and its practice, one more tea kettle has been scorched beyond repair.
Photograph of a supercell thunderstorm by Sean Heavey