When I find myself feeling the weight of life from living in our so called "civilized world"; I know there is only one place that can really provide me peace and heal me. I go to where my heart, mind and body feel most free. Yes, where trees surround me and reach up to the sky above me. Where the silence is deafening to the noise in my mind. Where I am free of the distractions of humanity.... The wilderness!
Watching the news on any source of media these days has become a stress point in my life. On one hand, I want to be informed and on another, the volume of information to process is incredible and is emotionally draining. It saps our joy and love of life. It can make us numb to feeling even the best of emotions.
To this point I believe so much in the power and healing we can find in the wilderness. When we stand in the wilderness we make a choice not only to be vulnerable, but to allow ourselves a connection to our impermanence. Nothing can make us more aware of our mortality or the space we occupy on this planet and in this universe than to go where there is wilderness
I imagine the questions a zen master might ask their student. "What is this wilderness, and at what point does the wilderness begin or end?" When do we know we are in the wilderness? I suppose for me it is when I find myself surrounded by more of what occurs in nature and there is a noticeable absence of the things that are man-made or human.
Going into the wilderness takes a conscious effort for it an exercise in finding ourselves and our relationship to our place in the world. The wilderness is humbling. It can reminds us of our impermanence, and remind us of our relative smallness in the existence of everything.
Sometimes when I have been away from the wilderness too long, I have to relearn and rebuild my relationship to it. I have to find my place and know myself enough to become a part of the wild place. I have to listen to it and watch how I handle the moments provided to me. Am I listening? Am I watching? Am I connecting? What is the message the wilderness is telling me and what am I saying to it?
Now that spring is upon us, I pine for the pines, the streams, the animals, the mountains, and the elements. As we head up a trail, and into areas where human noises become rare if not heard at all for hours, is that the moment? Is wilderness just a state of mind? A place that exists only in our perception? Is it something that we take with us back to our man made world, held inside our spirit?
Can we find that same place when we are surrounded by man-made items, noises and distractions? Perhaps a little if we focus our minds while walking through a park, or sitting under a tree in our yards. We can build birdhouses to attract song birds, and we can landscape a garden to resemble the wilderness. But these attempts are meager at best. The wilderness exists with or without us visiting it. It requires very little of us to exist. And then again it requires us to leave it to its own processes for it to thrive.
The wilderness then is perhaps a connection we make with ourselves and our place on this planet. It is our place of ancestral origin. The place that we survived within before clearing spaces and creating a society. When we visit it we are put to judgement for our decision to abandon it. And it still allows us to come back to it but we will never belong again to it for very long.
I try to pay attention to the events of my life. What I am doing and what is happening. Inevitable when we slow down to look at our lives we can see a lesson right there for the learning. We need only stop long enough and ask "what is the lesson of this moment in time in my life?"
a few weeks ago, I caught a sinus infection. I think I get one of these about every year in late winter. Each time I get this I go through several stages but it inevitably ends with me losing my voice to the point that I am suddenly able to do a great impression of Tom Waits. (I love Tom but I hate having his voice if it means I have to be in pain using it.) This time around it has lasted almost 3 weeks so far and counting. I am treating it with warm lemon water and honey and that seems to sooth.
So as I have been looking at this current state and experience of being without a voice I ask "what is the lesson of this moment...etc...etc? Well... I guess the first thing that comes to mind is "practice silence". It is surprising though how difficult it is to try and practice silence. You can go all day and then suddenly notice that you are speaking under your breath to yourself.
Is there a difference between "silence" and "quiet"? We can decide to be silent and not speak, or make noise if we can help it. Then when we stop speaking our thoughts start to fill the space of the audible noises with the noise of thoughts in our head. How do we silence the noise in our heads? Well, meditation practice is a start and I have written about the practice of "NOW MIND" too. With attainment of "now mind" we begin to realize that while there isn't a place of actual silence, there is a place of quietude. Certain noises around us are inconsequential to the moment we are in.
When I came home from my long retreat in the mountains last summer, I had become quite accustomed to the silence that is "silence of my mind within the wilderness". So when I stepped out my back door on that first morning back, I realized how much I could hear the sound of traffic, not just near by in the neighborhood, but from miles away. I could hear also aircraft, the hum of my neighbor's lawn mower, and the sound of a sporting event at the nearby park. The sounds felt invasive compared to the type of silence I was used to and it took a while before I could just put them into the background of my day and make them oblivious to my mind. I have to think that they have a subliminal effect on our psyches in the long run.
This showed me that there is a special kind of silence we need. It is the special kind of silence that we experience when we are fishing. Quiet happens within ourselves as we quiet our thoughts, the sounds around us in nature we can consider silence. They don't tax our attention or make us feel surrounded by man made chaos but instead by natural chaos. When we find quiet as a state of our minds, we allow the sounds of nature to come and go without much effort. We perhaps enjoy the connection with the natural world in a more intimate way.
This kind of practice can also inform us and give us pause to slow down and be aware of the noises we are contributing when we are in the wilderness. We can see that our place in the wilderness has a response if not responsibility to be in that wilderness. In the wilderness we find ourselves in a much more private place. We connect with the sounds, smells, sights, and sensations of the wilderness and we feel ourselves connecting to a natural existence. In this state we become aware of our own noises and we see that we can make a choice to move quietly as we can within it.
We practice silence in our actions and as a result we become better anglers too. We can be part of nature and work quietly to come to the banks of the stream without disturbing the fish. So often our noisy minds push us to start casting before we should and don't read the water correctly or we step into the water too carelessly and again too early and disturb the fish that is just hanging out under the banks..
But what about practicing silence in our human affected world? Exercising silence in our day to day lives is a worth while practice. The same practices of just clearing our minds lets us nurture a concept silence may let us observe what is natural and before us. We may find ourselves reserving our actions and our outbursts in situations and when we do act we approach our challenges, conflicts and problems with a grace based in being silent. Even in the hum and chaos of our noisy human places, we can intentionally practice silence. We can create spaces that we can quiet our minds and hone our skills to find quiet in the noisy places. We can accept that certain amount of "mental noise" but allow for quiet to win out.
I hope that you find that quiet place in your day to day life and that you also get to experience silence in the wild places when you can.
TENKARA AS PRACTICE
In this space I will continue to share my own musings, experiences and insights to tenkara as a practice that can help us live our best lives. Topics will range from minimalism, meditation and finding peace and lessons through tenkara.