Writing about my Feng Shui journey yesterday made me think of my spiritual practices today. As explained yesterday, it is a bit of a mishmosh of all the things I have found comfort in – meditation, prayer, chanting with mala beads. And then I remembered my rock.
Three of four times a week, I go to a small wooded area near my house. It has a shallow brook running through it which mesmerizes me no end. (I love running water). About a mile away from the road, there is a tree growing on a rock right in the middle of the brook. (I may have written about this tree before. I love it for what it says for thriving under even unlikely circumstances). A little further up, there is a flat rock in the middle of the brook. That’s where I go to meditate.
The rock is about four feet wide. In the spring it is under water. But for most of the rest of the year, the water flows around it. Sitting on it feels like being in the flow of life, but firmly planted on the Earth. The water makes a pleasing sound as it flows around you. You can look off into the distance and see only trees.
I once read that humans need contact with the Earth. Think about the last time your bare flesh touched the actual Earth. It’s probably been months, if not longer. But throughout most of human history, we were constantly in contact with our planet. I like the primal idea of that. In the summer, I take off my shoes and let my feet touch the rock. Now that the rock has soaked up the cold around it, I keep my shoes on but put my hands on it, if only for a little while. Then I close my eyes and spend fifteen minutes in total silence.
Meditating is hard for me. My mind wants nothing more than to be in charge. I start with the best of intentions. Notice breath in. Breath out. Breath in. Breath out. And, oh, did I forget to send that email I promised I’d send? I just need to take out my phone a minute and just make a note…
Nice try, brain. It can wait. It can all wait. That’s what the rock is about: learning about what’s long-lasting and what’s ephemeral. The rock has been there for millions of years. The thought about the email can be allowed to slip away. For fifteen minutes, it’s just me and the rock and the sound of flowing water, attached, connected, hurtling through space, never in the same place in space twice.
I can’t say I ever really completely quiet my mind. I am always leading it back, like a wayward child that tries to run into traffic after whatever bouncy ball it fancies. I make up essays in my head until I catch myself. I imagine stories. I remember things that happened. Sometimes I cry. Invariably, I get an uncontrollable itch. And yet I sit, and that’s the power of it, learning to sit through all of life’s distractions and demands, learning to let go for just a short while.
It’s gotten to the point that just taking the short hike to the rock starts to still me. I am going to the place that is closest to my eternity, I tell myself. My place where I can just feel myself sinking roots into the Earth and letting its energy fill me, solid, reassuring, safe. We all are here but for a brief burst, an instant. But on my rock, I am here forever.