Friday, October 23, 2009

What Remains

A few days ago I went for a walk around the neighborhood park. The sky was gray and at times the wind blew a chilling mist against my face so I tried to keep my head down. I noticed that the ground was covered with leaves. Yellow leaves, orange leaves, golden leaves. Leaves knocked from the trees by the previous day's long hard rain.

Seeing so many leaves on the ground, my attention was drawn up into the trees. There's something about looking up into the trees and seeing the limbs reaching towards the sky that I find quite enthralling. A few weeks ago these limbs were full of green leaves. Now they are growing increasingly bare. And the leaves are changing color from green to yellow, orange and occasionally red.

Science tells us that the yellow and orange pigments have been there in the leaves since Spring. We just couldn't see them because the green of the chlorophyl masks the other pigments. Then in the Fall when the chlorophyl ebbs away, the yellows, oranges and browns are revealed. Knowing this scientific explanation, I still find the Fall colors enchanting. And I wonder if in earlier times people thought the yellows, oranges and browns replaced the green.

As we bring mindfulness to moments of experience on and off the cushion and see things as they are, we increasingly let go and let life just be as it is. In time, the mind becomes more and more silent. At first I didn't notice this. Then, when I did it felt rather eerie. When I became more accustomed to the silence though, I began to notice the spaciousness and ease of this silent but attentive mind.

At first it seemed that there must have been things that I was doing to cause the silent mind to be present. Slowly I came to see that, like the yellow and orange pigments in leaves, this silent spacious attention has always been here. It's presence is just masked by the worries, distractions and obsessions about me and the way I want life to be. When I see these clearly as just thoughts in the mind, not holding on or pushing away, they pass away. What remains is the peacefulness of simple presence.