You may have heard the expression, “It’s like watching grass grow,” meaning that something is very boring. Today, we’re going to up the ante a little and talk about the grass growing. And how exciting and action-packed it is.
When people use the word mindfulness, it can usually be taken to loosely refer to a state of being that is fully aware of and solely in the present moment. It’s both a useful definition and a worthy goal. Unless, however, our profession in life is that of monk, none among us can practically expect to exist within this type of mental life on any permanent or even long term basis. Put simply, without suggesting that we ever abandon the present moment, continuing on our life paths requires us to think of the future. It’s not something we need help with; the thought processes of the brain trend quite naturally toward this. Evolution and all that. But I would humbly suggest there is a higher and more detached means of doing so, something which might be described as “long-term mindfulness.” Toward such an end, we are required to examine (and exist fully within) the nature of the times just as typical mindfulness examines the moment.
To be blunt, we’ve got some serious excitement ahead of us.
That’s where the grass comes in. There’s an image given to us in the I Ching of a single infant blade of grass struggling to emerge from the ground into open air, true life. At the beginning of spring, this blade is growing upward but encounters some kind of obstruction that prevents its free passage out from its amniotic soil. It seems so ordinary and small, but the conflict describes here is exactly like the conflict found in our tiny little mortal lives: ordinary, small, and the stuff of which our whole existence is made.
Indeed, here at the dawn of 2014’s light and life, everything is in motion. Despite the potential blizzard headed our way, we’ll soon know temperature and atmospheric shifts, thunder and lightning. Thinking in such terms can get a little overwhelming, but it is through bouts of activity like this – even when such activity is undeniably violent – that tension is relieved and events are set on their way. It’s time to both keep our eyes on the prize and also hold back from premature action. If you think (as I often do) that action and excitement are best to be avoided in and of themselves, why make things worse by making stupid mistakes now?
Instead, the thing to focus on is finding helpers. At the beginning of this year’s story, avoid isolation if you can. Let’s gather the best friends and allies we possibly can. As an aside, you won’t win many to your cause with arrogance. Be humble, be open, and even as you know that you need others by your side, be sure and wait for the right help. It will come – that’s just the nature of things.
None of this is to minimize the hazard in a state of flux. We may all encounter some sort of cruel fanaticism or other and can only combat it with the quiet faith in the notion that it’s temporary and will pass, just as spring passes into summer. Liberation, for ourselves and others, cannot be won in a single push forward, but must slowly be cultivated through daily labor, work that may even seem so repetitive as to be dull. And perhaps it is dull, in a way, but commitment to such dull but necessary work is precisely that which allows us to transcend the apparent storm of uncontrollable activity around us.
There’s a flip side to constant danger as well, and it’s not a bad thing – it means you can get used to it. This is not to suggest that we take it for granted or ignore it, but growing accustomed to adversity means we can better handle it. When it becomes normal, it no longer requires as much energy in order to face it. Keep your cool. Keep true. It will pass, and inevitably the changes that are in the air will become manifest.
Like I said yesterday, the key to everything is the water. Be like the water! It flows on and on, never stopping due to bias or indecision but indiscriminately onward, filling all holes and flowing ever onward, bringing water to all the far reaches of the continents, even to the deserts. This is the model to follow. If you can, return to it in the worst of moments.
The final vague aphorism to keep close by in mindful examination of the days and weeks ahead of us is something that applies everywhere, from the largest macrocosm to the smallest microcosm: implicit within every apparent chaos is the future order. Just as the DNA of a future human is found in the freshest little zygote, every wild beginning already contains the building blocks of the structure to follow. This isn’t a “secret” one is likely to master in the first half of life, but it’s worth considering that the hallmark of wisdom may well lie in discerning, recognizing, and pre-constructing those strands of order just when they are least obvious.
With regard to all of this, take it for what it’s worth – or leave it if you dare.
Let the spring come, then!