During the weeks I spent in Europe last spring, I got reacquainted with the power of the natural world to quiet my mind in order that my heart will be able to hear at all. For the voices that assist and guide it are soft and subtle, and are drowned out by the din of life and the world.
Because of the wide-open nature of so many European settings, the sky is a constantly-changing panorama I found myself stopping to watch like a movie, and there was always something on the horizon that I would set out on a long walk simply to see up close.
Ironically, more often than not I never made it there because I was waylaid by something magnificent along the way.
It could be the slant of the light on a field; the shape of a lone tree in the midst of hectares of rolling hills; one small, stunning blossom on a branch that brushed me as I walked past, like a woods creature trying to get my attention.
Astray from what? I wonder.
My preconceived notions? Insistent, certain ideas or opinions?
When I leave room for wonder or miracles, it leads me back to something Pema Chödrön has summarized beautifully in her book,
Practicing Peace in Times of War:
“If we want there to be peace in the world, we have to be brave enough to soften what is rigid in our hearts, to find the soft spot and stay with it.
We have to have that kind of courage and take that kind of responsibility.
That’s the true practice of peace.”
And Pema has also captured the very fulcrum of living:
“Compassionate action starts with seeing yourself when you start to make yourself right and when you start to make yourself wrong. At that point you could just contemplate the fact that there is a larger alternative to either of those, a more tender, shaky kind of place where you could live.”