"Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without." ~ Buddha
Watching the World Around me with Gratitude
Posted on December 9, 2013
When the first snow of each winter comes, it takes my breath away. Looking outside my window, late last night, I watched the snow fall like crystals falling from the heavens. The flakes slowly floating down to the Earth like white feathers capitulating to the pull of gravity…..the ground twinkling underneath the moon….it was the most beautiful sight. To some, snow is a frozen precipitation that falls too soon and too long in the winter. It’s a cold substance that you shovel for hours upon hours, then as soon as you’re done and ready for a nice hot cocoa; it’s there again filling the spaces you so nicely shoveled. But, to me, the first snow I see every winter is magical, captivating, peaceful, untouched, pure and there is a silence and stillness rarely felt in the hustle and bustle of the other three seasons. The booming of Spring, the heat and growth of long Summer days, and the colors and winds of Autumn. The first snow can encourage a time of reflection, introspection and can often signify a fresh start. It’s something new that only happens once a year.
This morning, as I hear the moans and groans of students in my class, I can see how things like snow, bugs, dirt and birds become less and less magical. Many of us see things like snow as an inconvenient part of winter that makes life difficult and cold. Perhaps, as we grow older, most things in life become less magical……the once fun snow is now a hassle.
Yesterday, prior to the snowfall, I went for a walk in the forest behind CYM. The wind was cold and felt as if it were numbing my cheeks. I was captivated by the small birds that flew about as if completely unaware that the temps were dipping to below freezing. I still wonder how such small creatures can survive in such bitter cold temperatures. The squirrels were rushing about and there were even ladybug dens that were preparing to seek refuge from the impending snowstorm. Above, in the charcoal colored sky, hawks circled in the wind so gracefully…..checking to see that all of the Universe’s creatures were preparing to tuck away into safety from the cold and frost.
As I looked at all the magic around me, a recently ordained nun asked me why I talk to the ladybugs and hawks. I responded that I believe beauty and love can be found in the most unlikely places.
My teacher once told me that: “People who can see the beauty in little things are the peacemakers of the world. These are the people that are pushing for everyone to get along because, after all, we’re all good people deep down. These people love others for simply being people.”
People who talk to bugs are the people that can sit for hours entranced by a bee pollinating a flower. They appreciate this simple little act that the bee itself doesn’t even notice, and they see the simple beauty of not only the flower, not only the bee, but of the act itself, and they congratulate the bee on a job well done. This simple act of appreciation is carried over into their interactions with other people. They see the smallest acts committed by their fellow man as great achievements worthy of praise and gratitude.
People who talk to bugs and who play in the snow are usually very young children, which is sad because these are the people that the world needs more of. To these people the world is a simple and yet complex and beautiful place. The answers to what we see as life’s greatest questions are simple to answer. Questions like ‘What is the meaning of life?’ and ‘What is love?’ ‘What is there to do in a snowstorm? ‘are simple to answer. When these questions are cleared from the mind, the world can be appreciated for the large wondrous thing that it is. Everything is a source of joy, wonder, and amusement…..even a snowstorm. The world is simply a beautiful adventure playground that is to be explored, but cannot be known in its entirety. And that’s ok.
If more adults were childlike enough to appreciate the nonsense of liking bugs enough for them to be your friend, or enjoying the beauty in the first snowfall of the year, then the world could let go of its shallow exterior, and finally appreciate the beauty in everything. People wouldn’t care about looks, or petty differences. Everyone new would be a potential friend and playmate, and no one would think that this is weird or out of place. The bigger humanistic problems of today: racism, sexism, violence, any kind of disliking or hate of a person just because of something superficial would be eliminated, and we could concentrate on things like eliminating poverty and disease. The world would be a better, more innocent place.
We as humans, with our most precious minds and hearts, must learn that every day, every moment is all there is and that gratitude for the snow, the bugs, the hassles, helps us appreciate, one moment at a time. It can be difficult…especially when the world holds such great demands over us and the media instills fear that the coming storms may leave us stranded and hungry!
As I look out my window now, the snow that had fallen has slowly turned to water, seeping back into the Earth, only to evaporate, rise to the heavens and fall again in days to come. It’s a cycle….a cycle of life and it’s beautiful. Such cycles give us the chance to see things differently in each moment. Today, I will work hard, savor the warmth a cup of tea can offer, tell my family and friends how much I love them and am grateful for them each moment, watch the hawks fly above, the ladybugs and squirrels prepare their dens, watch the sun go down and eventually climb into bed. I will think about how uncomplicated it all can be without the outside noise….and how very deeply grateful I am for every last bit of it. And, I will wonder at how it took me my entire life to appreciate just one day.