I’m writing this bundled up in a hammock on a cliff-side perch above a crystal clear fast flowing river far out in the wilderness. Civilization is at least a half hour drive away, I have no shelter other than trees towering above and I am the only human here. It is very dark and the sky is dotted with thousands of stars. I’ve slept the last couple nights hanging between two trees. The nights are cold (40F/5C degrees) and the only interruptions to the silence are birds, animals, and the wind. I heard large animals communicating with grunting sounds at about 4:30 am… guessing deer or elk.
The thought actually crossed my mind: “I should be more scared.”
What if there are bears or mountain lions or mean people? It’s interesting that when I typed that and the images floated through my psyche I felt quite scared. How peculiar our mind can be. Though, now thirty seconds later, I don’t have any fear at all: peaceful in the forest by myself, but not alone at all.
There is something very special that happens through the knowing that all is well. By “All is well” I mean: Everything Is exactly how it Is. Period. Anything else we add is just a story.
More and more I see that as I let my beliefs and disbeliefs fall away and live fully engaged, but without any preconceived idea of how things should be: All the unimaginable possibilities that were there all along bloom into the magnificence that already is.
For years it has felt like we have to be open to all the possibilities in order for them to occur. This doesn’t appear true to me anymore. It appears that unimaginable possibilities are happening all the time, it’s just that we are judging things as good or bad, or we think we know how it is supposed to be. So we struggle. We often are so preoccupied that we miss the magnificence that is happening right beneath our nose.
Here is a cute and interesting real life short story that just happened and sweetly illustrates this knowing and trust (and involves brief nudity- reader beware!!):
After being in the dusty woods for a couple of days I wanted to clean up. I walked down the hill to the river with soap and a towel. A clean face and clean feet would be such a treat. The river is very cold and the sun was already behind the trees.
While standing ankle deep in the river I washed my face: Brrrrr it was cold! Then I washed my feet, but noticed I had dirt and dust up to my knees. So, I took a couple steps down the steep bank to get in a bit deeper. The bank was covered with algae… I slipped and slid right in. Yikes! Arctic water!!!
Now I’m standing in the river and the only parts not submerged are my shoulders and head. “Ha! I’m taking a bath!” I thought comically. My soap still in hand, I slipped my bathing suit off, threw it up on the bank and took a very refreshing bath in the crystal clear snow melt water of the Cascade Mountains.
It was one of the quickest baths I’ve ever taken, but also probably the most refreshing of my life! I washed, rinsed and climbed back up to the grassy shore sporting my birthday suit. Within minutes I was back up at camp dressed in several warm layers and feeling amazing.
As I was walking back to my hammock I realized how beautiful that experience had been and how it was a microcosm of all of life. A feeling of gratitude washed over me as I realized the drastic shift I’ve experienced in the last several months. I had no plans to go more than ankle deep in the river, though without a thought there was a profound and sweet surrender to what already was: I was taking a bath. Some might call it meant to be, I now see it as what Is.
Not long ago, I probably would have thought: “Great! Now I’m cold and wet” or “why did this have to happen?” or maybe I’d have fallen in and then thought “Well, I’m here now. Guess I’ll take a bath.” None of that crossed my mind. It was a childlike glee and a bath in a river- nothing more. The most gorgeous part of my bath tonight was realizing after the fact how simple and amazing life has become.
What if everything really just Is?
What if life is flowing and the only thing there is for us to do is to continue to follow our inclinations and surrender to what is? Many may read that and think “Yeah, but there are really bad things that happen in life. That was just a little slip in a river.” I hear you and yes: I too sometimes get caught up and wonder if this is really true, especially in situations that don’t seem to be fair.
One such scenario that pops to mind is my mom living with serious stage four cancer. That’s not fair. How can anyone surrender to that? Though, she is flowing beautifully through the experience with such grace and ease. Just over a year ago she called quite excited to share with me that she knows why she is still alive years beyond what doctors predicted. Here is what she said:
“I am still alive, because I’m not afraid to die.”
Wow, yes. Mom gets it. Life is just lifing and most people wouldn’t guess my mom has been living with such a grave diagnosis for quite a while. Last month we had the most amazing time: camping, hiking, and exploring in Oregon. Even then, she admitted that she really didn’t think she’d still be here all these years later. I didn’t either. I’ve witnessed her sweet surrender, deeper and deeper for years now. She takes everything in stride, it’s a beautiful thing to witness.
When most people think of surrender, they think of waving a white flag or bowing down in defeat. The surrender I’m referring to is quite different: instead it is being fully engaged in life, following the tickles of our soul, living beautifully, and being fully ok with what already Is. There is no ‘fight’ or regret or wishing you could have it another way.
What if the infinite symphony of all time has already been written? What if we can’t get it wrong? What if sickness, falling in rivers, pain, layoffs, parting of relationships, homes burning down, hunger… what if all that too was just what is?
I can tell you this for sure: Cancer looked real- it looked like awfully bad news… until I saw through my beliefs and disbeliefs to what is. Do I wish Mom didn’t have to go through chemo and all the rest she’s been through? Of course, but it just is. And even before I realized “it just is”… I already saw so many beautiful things that were born from this experience.
What it looks like to me right now is this: When we see that everything Is, our entire experience shifts to simplicity and ease. When the illusion that things should be different subsides: a knowing remains. This knowing provides for such a clear and peaceful state of mind. Within this space we can simply live while being present to our instincts and inclinations. In this space, no matter what is happening in the world around us, there is clarity that the symphony is grander than we can imagine.
Life knows when a cold bath is perfect. Even that experience was so much more refreshing than I could ever have imagined possible. Life is clean: always.
What a refreshing reminder of what Is.
A short video filmed on location where this blog was born and just hours before it was written:
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