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.
Last week I wrote of awe and wonder, of the extraordinary hidden in the ordinary, of a way of training our hearts to come ablaze to the absurd beauty of the natural world. Who better to write about, then, but the sweet animals, whose natural ability to rest in their essential being leaves me disarmed? Regularly, it is my pets and the sweet animals who are completely at ease in their true nature that interrupt my momentum and bring me to pause, their kind of disruption a welcome opportunity to rest in my own essential being. No matter what else is happening or has happened, these creatures come and suspend the grind for a time of deep love and connection.
What is the essential being or self? The core of every spiritual tradition is the journey toward the essence of all living beings—the non-egoic, expansive, love-filled nature that ever is. Realizing and resting in this nature allows us humans to contemplate and rest in the interbeing of all that is alive. This is the understanding that we are connected to the whole of life, not only humans, but also animals and plants, the oceans and rivers, the whole of the earth. This can be a relatively challenging concept to grasp, possibly because we try to grasp with our minds, and this, like all things to do with love, must be held in the heart. Often, however, we need an interruption to our more territorial, busy-minded existence to truly experience this essence and to rest in the heart’s awareness.
So how might we come to experience this? How might we already be experiencing this? Through our beloved animals, the great interrupters, the great gurus of living as their essential being. I am thinking of my own delightful tabby boys, lovingly nicknamed “guru of rest” and “aggressively affectionate tabby.” This is Charlie and Buster, who are two of our easiest family members to love. When I am distracted by so much worry for my future, for my children, angry with people I truly love, angry at the world for being so darn angering, feeling lousy and ashamed about some thoughtless or misguided word or action, it is often my kitties who bring me back to my true self, residing in absolute love and acceptance. When they pin me down with the weight of their furry bodies, my teachers of rest and love remind me not to rush away too quickly from this feeling of being at home in myself, at home with love that requires so little of me. Kind of like Grace.
It’s Charlie who hates when we leave home and does all he can to keep us where he believes we belong—right there, present with him in a favorite chair with a blanket, free of distractions. Both boys love to be held in a way that they can wrap their paws around my neck in a hug of sorts. They nuzzle my face with their little noses and gaze longingly into our eyes. They follow us around the yard when we play and, when we’re sick, they come to lay across our laps or chest, their purr a deepyl healing vibration. These are our “therapy cats.”
Even my “cat allergic” husband, a made-up claim by a fella who thought himself only a dog person, becomes a softer, more fully loving and vulnerable being when surrounded by the uncomplicated, constant love of Charlie and Buster.
It’s not only my kitties, though, who interrupt my negativity bias. On a path I walk twice a week, there is a horse farm by the road. Often one of the horses, a tall brown boy, comes to the fence to greet me. I never have one single thing to offer him, other than some pets on his muzzle and across his hair. In return, I get to stand completely still, pause from the rush of the world and my brain, and be nuzzled into loving relationship. It’s magical in the moment—this horse who doesn’t know me but loves me just for showing up.
These animals are striving for nothing. They simply are, and when I most need, they remind me of my own ability to love, to surrender to that love, and to be loved just as I am. What teachers they are indeed.
And so, today I praise my kitties, but also this sweet horse. I praise the deer I see regularly outside my window, and the Eastern bluebirds on the tree in front of me. What if they’re teaching me to love my way into action that enables me to experience this same kind of love for all creation? If we start at home with that which comes easily, might we learn to rest in an essential nature that allows us to fall in love with all creation? Perhaps. It’s worth the try.
I’ll end with Psalm 148, as shared by Nadia Bolz-Weber:
Who allows you to pause and sense your connection to all that is divine and loving? In the week ahead, may you remember how blessed they are. And may you find rest and ease from the upheaval and trauma, within the sadness and grief, in the presence of the ones who allow us to show up just as we are.
No Live Class This Friday March 11. I’ll be leading a youth trip to Baltimore, MD. Class will resume March 18. Instead, I’m including a link to a past class.