Saturday, March 31, 2012
Monday, March 12, 2012
Friday, March 9, 2012
Each morning, after a quick chat with Paul over a breakfast of tea and toast, I would venture out, with the intention of walking for as long and as far as I could. The setting was perfect. Situated on the west coast of Wales, Aberystwyth offered spectacular views of Cardigan Bay and on a clear day, the lovely vista would suddenly be enhanced by the appearance of Mount Snowdon, standing in serene silence.
With such compelling scenery, I invariably opted to walk one of the many coastal pathways which wound their way up the hills on the edge of the bay or wove through woodlands. Each walk was always breathtaking. Inclines climbed steadily and with greater elevation, they offered an even more expansive and breathtaking view.
As seagulls swooped and screeched overhead, I would marvel at the craggy stone set against the ocean, and breathe in the fresh salt air. It felt good to be outside a classroom setting. With each focused step I felt as if my mind was being washed clean. All concerns of college papers and deadlines dissolved as if containing no real substance. At the same time, I watched my awareness expand to fill the vastness and I was effortlessly drawn into a state of peace and stillness that appeared to have no end.
All those years ago, although I did not know it, I was fulfilling an innate need for solitude and practicing a form of open-eyed meditation. Watching my footing and the steady flow of breath combined with the beauty of the environment was bringing me into 'present moment awareness.' In this state, I was gifted with, "The peace that passeth understanding." I was having the direct experience that peace is not something to be gained from outside, it is an inner state which we are gifted with when we take time to withdraw, be quiet and be with ourselves.
Thursday, March 8, 2012
When my husband and I lived in New Providence, the capital island of the Bahamas, we rented a charming wooden cottage with a sweeping vista of the ocean from a sweet, elderly man who was 88 years old.
Our landlord Leslie lived alone in an elegant house next door to our cottage and I made it a habit to visit him each day, after arriving home from teaching at a local high school.
Leslie was lonely and my heart would ache for him. Having lost his wife a few years earlier, he was a sad, wistful figure, who would spend the day sitting with the front door open, gazing out at traffic and wondering where all his friends had gone.
While I felt sorry for his situation, I was acutely aware of why people had stopped coming by. Leslie could barely hear a word anyone said and, as a consequence, my visits would consist of raising my voice to the highest level possible, which would leave me hoarse and physically drained.
One afternoon after making tea and settling down to attempt to communicate, Leslie started by labeling himself “a silly old fool” and then related an incident I will never forget.
Over the years I have recalled it many times as a way of highlighting the importance of being attentive and present.