Heightened Senses In Nature Opens the Door to Meditative States
The weather, in fact the season has dramatically changed since my last meditation in the parkland. The temperature is 40 degrees less than it was last week, and though the leaves haven’t begun to turn in California’s Central Valley yet, fall is definitely in the air. As I usually do, I stop at the great oak that anchors the four miles of the parkland as it follows the creek through the city and college. I pull off the one-lane park road, leave the car running, and get out to look up at one of the biggest oaks you’ve ever seen. Its presence always anchors one and salubriously starts off my time in the park. Except for this time. Just as I’m exiting the car, an approaching walker aggressively asks, “Is this your first time in the park? You can’t park there.” Without explanation, I reply, I’m not parking. To which she continues to say something about blocking a dirt path off the road. I ask, ‘Are you the rule keeper of the park?’ Rather than look at herself, she proudly says she is, “to keep the park nice for people.” Except that you’re actually trying to spoil it, I think. But I hold my tongue. Silence speaks louder to busybodies. It isn’t an isolated incident, and I reflect on what’s happening with people in America as I drive in to where I walk into the creek. Coming out of Covid, you would think that people would take every opportunity for a moment’s connection in a beautiful place. Instead, isolation and suspiciousness rule in this godforsaken land even more than before the pandemic. As if on cue to remind me that the world is not life, a female mallard swoops in and glides to a halt in front of me just as I take my seat at streamside. She forages in the shallows within a few meters of where I’m sitting, and drifts downstream with the current. I check my cell. I normally turn it off, but was expecting an email. Hearing something in the water directly in front, I look up to see the mallard just a few feet away. Her presence clearly says: Turn the damn thing off and attend to where you are. The day is cloudy and cool, with an early season rainstorm due. It’s desperately needed, as wildfires north and south of here still aren’t contained, much less extinguished, and the air smells smoky. Through the trees, the sun brightens briefly, and the spaces between thoughts grow. The senses are easily contaminated by thought, so it’s essential to take the time to allow them to attune to and heighten in nature, if one is fortunate enough to live a relatively quiet place where nature can still be seen, heard and felt. Or even just a park in the city. When it comes down to it, one’s approach to meditation turns on two questions: concentrating or attending; and heightening or denying the senses? Clearly allowing the senses to heighten and attention to gather is the key to authentic meditation. Because when the senses are fully awake and aligned, and one observes without any interference (that is, without the reactions of judgment and choice of the observer), the spaces between thoughts grow. Allowing the senses to be fully in tune with one’s surroundings, the brain effortlessly gathers attention, and thought spontaneously ceases its chatter. A sentence I read in the last few days comes to mind, its meaning rippling beyond the words: “Without the appreciation of beauty, and the sensitive awareness of it, there is no love.” The brain (not the self) gathers attention as one listens and watches what is, inwardly and outwardly, without interference. The mind as thought yields to awareness and attention, and effortlessly falls silent. Far beyond words or description, there is stillness, emptiness and timelessness. Walking back to the car in a meditative state, with the world outside and the known inside having fallen away, bringing peace and renewal, I encounter a deer standing on the path. It’s a male, only about two years old, with a small rack. Two other deer are feeding a few meters away, another male about the same age and a younger one. I slow but don’t stop, and the deer doesn’t move until I get close enough I could have touched it. It stares at me and moves just enough off the path to let me by. Martin LeFevre
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Martin LeFevre, a contemplative, philosopher and writer in northern California, serves as a contributing writer for The Seoul Times. His "Meditations" explore and offer insights on spiritual, philosophical and political questions in the global society. LeFevre's philosophical thesis proposes a new theory of human nature. He welcomes dialogue. firstname.lastname@example.org
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