How nice to be inconsequential. How pleasant to know that there is nothing to be done. ~from the novel Little Bee by Chris Cleave
After our walk the other evening, as we prepared for dinner, I looked out and saw the ducks had returned to the feeder after five long months away. "They're back! They're back!" I called to my husband and ran to get my camera to document their arrival. "It means Spring is here!"
There was plenty of food for them, for which I was grateful, but I regretted there was no fresh water -- in fact, the water tray was still buried under a foot of crusty old snow. I wanted things to be perfect for them, to be exceedingly hospitable to ensure they stayed. As it turned out, the moment I took the first picture, they flew off.
Later that evening as I sat in the soul cave meditating, there was a familiar noise I hadn't heard since the previous Spring. Whoo-hoo-hoo. The owls were back, too? I could hardly contain myself -- we had had owls in the woods behind our house the whole previous winter yet they had left last Spring. I hadn't heard them for a year and I missed their hooting and being able to watch them dart through the trees. The instant the timer went off signaling the end of my meditation, I ran downstairs and into the backyard to listen, just to be sure I hadn't been hearing things. They were still there, by the light of the moon, calling off into the night.
The arrival of both the ducks and owls brought me such joy, omens of Spring...finally! And all in one evening, no less! Yet I began to realize I was taking their returns personally, as if they had come back just for me. Was it really the same ducks? The same owls? Not likely. But the story in my head told me they were -- that I had fed them so well and had created such a nice atmosphere that they rewarded me by coming back after their own long, arduous winter travels.
Really? Am I the center of the Universe?
Ah, but perhaps we get attached to these encounters because we, too, are animals. We're fascinated because we've lost touch with our wildness, our instinct. We've forgotten that as animals, we, too, need the earth. We no longer recognize how we move to the energetic rhythms of nature and her cycles. Perhaps to witness the authentic being of other animals we are humbled. Perhaps to attract them into our circle helps us to feel more connected to them, to who we are and to the land we've all but left behind.
Personally, I love these humblings...to be reminded that in the scheme of things, I'm inconsequential. To connect with nature in such a way that I know in my heart I'm not in control and there is nothing to be done but be in the experience and be moved. The ducks come, the owls go -- my only job is to witness and allow myself to remember who I really am.
The trouble seems to be that our mind, who thinks it's in charge, needs to concoct stories that keep us removed from the wonder of this humbling in order to feel important. Inconsequential? Never! It couldn't be that the ducks and owls were simply passing through -- that wasn't enough. They were back because of me. Ho, ho!
But what happens if we remember that we're "just" animals?
Maybe we wouldn't need to keep ourselves so busy, full of made-up stories and judgments and demands, to keep us from remembering our roots. This isn't a bad thing to remember. Yes, our industriousness has created civilizations and all our busyness keeps our societies -- and our families -- humming. This is important work...we have the capacities and abilities we have for a reason.
But isn't it exhausting to have to do so much to prove our importance to ourselves all the time? When in the end, what a relief it is to remember our animal nature -- that sometimes, all that's required is a good, nourishing meal and a soak in a sunbeam. Even animals know when it's time to rest. We would learn much from remembering how to trust our animal instincts.
I often think that the purpose of meditation is nothing more than to invite us to get over ourselves. The ducks and owls passed through the other night, not because of me, as the all-important part of me would love to believe, but because Nature and their instincts told them it was the right time to return. We get so caught up in our own perceived importance that we forget we are the same and have the same cues to guide our choices as they do.
Meditation reveals to me time and time again that in order to do, we need only rely on our mind. But in order to truly be -- to flourish in our authenticity as human beings -- we need to rely on our heart as well. This is where our intuition resides, the still small voice that is connected to the animal we still are. I may not be the center of the Universe, but with awareness and attention and a little humility, I can remember that I am a part of it. I can remember, as my fowl friends, to listen to my instincts, to trust them and live from there.//