Sometimes even dramatic events don’t change things much. There were some local wind bursts in the area, the kind that can down trees. I was home working in my upstairs office when I heard a loud cracking sound. Large branches passed by my window on their way down followed by a thump. Going out to investigate, I found that the tops of two large trees had come down landing plunk in my small tea garden, fortunately missing both the house and the tea hut only a few feet away.
The tree company that came out early the next morning used a large red “spider” machine to get up safety to where they could saw off heavy sections of hanging trunk and branches. These were secured with ropes and lowered to the ground after which they were taken to a chipper and the chips loaded into a truck to be hauled away. There was not much space to maneuver and the spider with its small feet seemed perfectly designed to do minimal damage to the ground where it stood.
After all of the noise and drama, and removal of misplaced greenery, there was surprisingly little damage – both the tea hut and my house were spared other than an easily fixed bent corner gutter. The crushed ground cover would recover nicely I knew. So would the moss if I watered it more frequently for a while so it could adjust to receiving more sun. After that, the fall colors were brighter in my garden. In fact, two plants, in particular, put on a spectacular show as if to say, it’s about time someone noticed that we like more sun.
Periods of walking meditation alternated with silent seated mediation at a 7-day silent retreat I attended. At one of her talks during the retreat, Christina Feldman mentioned that we might find it easier to sustain concentration during walking meditation because that was closer to our experience in the West.
I decided to use the first 45-minute walking meditation period to learn the layout of the corridors and buildings at the retreat center. I walked up and down the stairs leading down to the laundry facilities, I thought I might as well get some exercise. Then I remembered walking meditation is not supposed to be goal oriented. I noticed several people walking back and forth in a lovely light filled “walking meditation room” with polished wood floors, and a large plant.
As we walked back and forth, with each of us in our own lane, suddenly and without seeming effort, my awareness became much more focused. This must be what Goldstein describes as being “inwardly steadied, composed and unified. This is … concentration that is calm and refined, achieving increasing levels of mental purification”in his book, Mindfulness; A practical guide to awakening on p. 276. The enhanced steady access to moment to moment sensory awareness came with a feeling of floating through time and space.
As I walked to the meditation hall for the next period of silent sitting, it came to me that it might be possible to simply let go. In an interview with one of the retreat teachers, I said, “All we need to do is let go into the present moment.” Pointing a finger at me, she said “That’s it!” She went on say, “It is simple but not so easy, as we all know.” Goldstein also seemed to provide confirmation that I was onto something, “liberation is not about becoming or getting, not about holding on or craving or clinging, but about letting go and letting be” (p. 306).
In the days that followed at that retreat, I never recaptured that stable effortless floating awareness. Even now, my nightly sitting meditation practice remains a work in progress. My attention wanders and I get lost in planning and dreaming. Still it seems a way to weed and tend my “garden” based on the benefits I see in my life. I find I can sustain steady awareness more easily during relational mindfulness practices like Insight Dialogue. And bringing all the open “let go” awareness I can muster to my daily walks in a nearby woodsy park never fails to provide delightful new discoveries.