Contemplative Listening in the Forest – week 1

“We can make our minds so like still water that beings gather about us to see their own images and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even a fiercer life because of our silence.” William Butler Yeats

In a desire to live thoughtfully, I have felt a call toward greater silence and a challenge to listen more fully. I have given myself a contemplative experiment – to spend time in the beautiful Carolinian forest that surrounds my home each week in stillness and listening. I share my reflections here.

What are your contemplative places? How are you listening more deeply?

Contemplative Listening in the Forest – week 1

The creek bed is dry and I veer off the path to climb down to it.

Following the slow descent of wide limestone stairs that are the creek bottom, I stop to wonder at a little pool left over from the water that has run its course down to the lake.

Walnuts in their casings, chartreuse fading to brown, float in the water they have dyed. They rest in apparent stillness with leaves and debris in varying stages of decay.

Looking past the surface to the reflection I see the branches and still green leaves overhead, azure sky beyond. Oak leaves distinct, others nondescript. I am content to leave them unnamed.

The air is complex, cool and warm at the same time.

Walnuts fall behind me, reminders of gravity.

The chirp, chatter and screeches of the squirrel clans boast their industrious efforts to other woodland creatures.

Staring at the reflection I first perceived as still, I become aware of silent shimmering ripples gliding through the surface. Liquid starbursts meet and blend, reflecting the sky and the light, becoming a living canvas. Who is this artist, this silent creator? How long did it take me to see this? Eventually I trace the movement to the water spiders, legs and body hairline thin, skittering across the water like elegant float planes.

It’s their silent movement that astonishes me. The way they never break the surface of the water, never sink. They are quick, yet graceful as they skate their way around the pool.

I come to the forest to be still. Ironically, as my stillness increases I discover more and more movement. May my movements in life be as lithe as the water spider’s. May the ripples from my actions merge as gracefully with those around me as these liquid rings reflect the sky above.

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