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“It’s not happiness that makes us grateful but gratefulness that makes us happy.” – Br. David Steindl Rast

The Wilderness of the Body and Resting in the Grace of the World

A note from Carl: 

Happy Equinox to you!

Lat weekend, while Erin was in Seattle at a retreat with Russell Delman, Mesa and I got to take a father/son trip down to Boulder, Utah.  I am so grateful to live in a place where you can go and not see another human for two or three days.  Our wilderness is such a precious resource on so many levels,  and I am grateful that for Mesa, more than any of his toys or Pixar movies, the sand, rocks and life of Southern Utah are among his most favorite things in life…
When I am in the desert, I often reflect on this poem by Wendell Berry:
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with the forethought of grief…

 

I just love that line!
How often am I taxing myself with the forethought of grief?
One of the things I value about time in the natural world is how much the environment calls out to my basic sanity.
Up here in the city, with the iPhone, the busyness, March Madness, tragic headlines… without some intentionality, the world just lures me to be up in my head. It seems everyone is taxing themselves with the forethought of something.In the desert the silence, the spaciousness, the light, the sound of the crows wings as it passes by touch me.  (How often do I hear the wings of a bird in flight?)
It is as though the world around me invites me to, in Berry’s words, rest in the grace of the world, and be free.

I also appreciate how that state of being which can appear so spontaneously in the desert is always available, and how sometimes a pause and dropping down to what is living in my body can be just as refreshing as a walk in a canyon.
This is a wonderful passage from Reggie Ray’s book “Touching Enlightenment” on the wilderness of our embodiment:

 

“But there is a new wilderness, a new trackless waste, a new unknown and limitless territory – I do believe – that has not been, and cannot be, colonized and domesticated by human ambition and greed, that in its true extent cannot be mapped by human logic at all. This is the “forest” of the human body.

The body is now, I believe, our forest, our jungle, the “outlandish” expanse in which we are invited to let go of everything we think, allow ourselves to be stripped down to our most irreducible person, to die in every experiential sense possible and see what, if anything remains.

 

In this I am speaking not of the body we think we have, the body we conceptualize as part of our “me” or my self-image. Rather I am talking about the body that we meet when we are willing to descend into it, to surrender into its darkness and its mysteries, and to explore it with our awareness. As we shall see, this true limitless body cannot even be entered until we are willing to leave our own thinking process behind – on the surface, so to speak.
It is similar to the deep-sea diver: while floating on the surface of the sea, he knows little of what lies below, but when he descends into its depths, the limitless worlds of the ocean open to him. It was of this ever unbounded and unknown body that the great siddha Saraha spoke when he said, “There is no place of pilgrimage as fabulous and open as this body of mine, no place more worth exploring.”

Wishing you well, wishing you wildness and grace.
Carl
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