(Note- I actually wrote this on January 23, 2008. It's been hanging around waiting for me to get this blog up and running.)
I treated myself to a trip to the park today. I love the park. I go there for a double reason – to be immersed in nature and to be immersed in my Self. Walking the trails through this particular park soothes me and helps me think. My exploration becomes a walking meditation, a large-scale labyrinth that I am unfurling with my motions as my heart unfurls its emotions.
Trees grow, wind blows. Birds chirp, call, and circle in the sky. Squirrels hop from tree to tree. Various nooks hold benches that invite me to sit and reflect.
One spot I adore is a concrete hexagon terrace overlooking an orange grove. This morning, I notice that someone has been partying here again. That tends to happen. Apparently, I am not the only one who finds this spot the perfect place to hang out.
I can tell partiers visited because they have shattered their discarded beer bottles. The broken shards of glass trouble me. They contrast with the atmosphere of peace and growth. One time I threw away two dozen bottles that thoughtless rowdies had hurled down among the orange trees. The soft earth kept them from breaking.
These couple of bottles had no such luck. They have fragmented into hundreds of pieces against the hard stone. I am about to walk on when I realize that there is something I can do. I can pick the fragments up.
I have a little internal debate, listing all the reasons that I don’t have to take on this chore. Yes, it will be hard, Yes, it will take a while. Yes, I should be careful. No, I don’t HAVE to take the responsibility.
But I choose to.
I kneel and begin to tidy up. Slowly I bring my attention to the task. I begin to practice being mindful. The first challenge I notice is that I am impatient. I try to get away with only picking up the biggest pieces. I am skipping on to the next one before I have even finished with the one in my hand.
I access gentle compassion and tell myself to slow down. Take your time. You have nowhere else to be, I say. I pick up each piece slowly. I notice their shapes, their textures. Some are brown squares; others splintered into knife-like shards, miniature amber icicles. Truly, they are beautiful. I consider that people from the long-ago past would have viewed these crumbles with awe. What I conceive of as annoying trash would have been a miraculous substance.
I watch my hands. They are amazing. I feel my cupped left hand, patiently receiving each new chunk. I watch my fingers move on my right hand. I am so grateful to have full use of both of them. If I move slowly and with attention, there is very little danger of cutting myself.
I shift my awareness to my posture. I am in a crouch, knees bent. Because I am right-handed, I have a good placement with my right leg. My foot is directly under my knee and I can lean, reach, or swivel. But when I notice my left leg, it is not so happy. My knee is well ahead of my foot and it feels cramped and overworked. I would never adopt this pose in Yoga. Why should I do it here as I work?
I plant my feet firmly and straighten my legs into a hanging forward bend. This is much better. Now my body is symmetrical and I have good range of motion for my hands to work.
It takes some time, but I gather three handfuls of broken glass. When I am done, the damaged bottles are gone.
Later, someone will come back here and drink again. And they will smash their bottles. I know this.
That’s not the point. The point is that for this little while, I paid attention. The point is that I made a positive difference in the external world and myself.
The point is that I said Thank You to the park that I love, and I got gifts in return.