Quite often we put too much importance on our thoughts and take them so seriously that they can lead us into all kinds of emotional turmoil. Some thoughts are inspiring while others can be misleading. One time we were teaching meditation and Ed said to Mary, a participant, that when we meditate all sorts of outrageous thoughts may arise. In response Mary blurted out, “Wow, how’d you know?” Because of her negative thoughts, Mary felt she was a terrible person. Yet thoughts are simply words in our mind. Those we thought yesterday are gone and new thoughts arise only to disappear into the next moment.
We lived in Dartmouth, on the south coast of England, and each day we would take walks along the wide river Dart to the estuary. One day we were standing and gazing at the flowing water when it struck us that though the river always looked the same, day after day, it was no more the same than it was even a second ago. It was constantly changing, always moving, always different.
Which is just like our thoughts and feelings. Can you remember what you were thinking yesterday that seemed so important? Who we are now is not who we were last week, an hour ago, even a few minutes ago. Like the river, we are always changing.
Ed was seeing with new eyes as he looked at the river, free of the clutter of his own projections or judgments. Normally we are looking through the lens of our prejudices and needs, through past regrets or future hopes, but without these we find each moment is infused with uniqueness, that everything is constantly fresh, new and unknown.
You can experience this by looking with awareness, as if you have never been here before. Everything you see is completely new to you, completely unknown, waiting to be explored and discovered. Whether you are brushing your teeth, washing the dishes, or any other equally mundane act, you can see it completely through new eyes.
A monk asks, ‘Is there anything more miraculous than the wonders of nature?’ The master replies, ‘Yes, your awareness of the wonders of nature.’ Angelus Silesius
All you have to do is pay attention without expectation. By paying attention you see yourself, others, and all things just as they are, enabling you to see the inherent beauty within each one. You get to see the fleeting nature of your own thoughts, how they just come and go like clouds in the sky, and what remains is your essence.
Being mindful in this way extends you beyond yourself. It takes you out of me-centeredness and into awareness of connectedness, of yourself in relation to everything and everybody else.
Walking In Nature
Take a walk in nature – whether in a city park, through a forest, on a beach, by a lake, or in a city park. Make this time an opportunity to see with new eyes as if you have never seen it before: the colors and shapes, the smells and sounds.
Open yourself to the exquisiteness of the natural world. If it is raining then enjoy the feeling of water on your face, appreciate how it is nourishing the earth and the plants; if it is windy then marvel at the power of nature, a force that is beyond your control; if it is cloudy then observe the subtle colors and the softness of the air. Be aware of each footstep.
Although we protect ourselves from nature with raincoats, boots, gloves and hats, we are a part of it and we need the nourishment of the earth, the plants, the sun, the wind and rain. When we see with new eyes the world becomes a treasure.