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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

313: What are we rooted in? Could it be anything as simple as the present now-moment?

Day 313 Saturday, January 23rd, 2021

What are we rooted in? Could it be anything as simple as the present now-moment?

When you look at a tree during a storm, you see that its branches and leaves are swaying back and forth violently in the strong wind. You have the impression that the tree will not be able to withstand the storm. You are like that when you’re gripped by a strong emotion. Like the tree, you feel vulnerable. You can break at any time.

But if you direct your attention down to the trunk of the tree, you will see things differently. You see that the tree is solid and deeply rooted in the ground. If you focus your attention on the trunk of the tree, you realize that because the tree is firmly rooted in the soil, it cannot be blown away.

- Thich Nhat Hanh

So what is the trunk of our existence? What are we rooted in? Could it be anything as simple as the present now-moment?

I’m sure my feelings of anxiety and fear are shared by a great many people in this “dark winter.” I can't remember who showed me a way out of this darkness. I think it was a Zen master who was also an activist in gay and lesbian rights. He told a group of us to forget about the future at times, and also to forget about the past. Push those things out of your mind and only be in the present now-moment. His advice went something like this,

Look around you. See what nature is doing. Be aware of little miracles that ordinary people close to you are performing. Be mindful of what you are experiencing at those moments. And if it helps, just think about your breathing until you're not thinking about anything —just breathing in and breathing out.

“Only when you are truly in the now can you hear your rhythm and dance with it.”

We in this country have some serious troubles which we must work together to correct. The last four years have been a disaster in our culture, our health, our income inequality, and our simple sense of decency. We must work hard on these problems. But we cannot do that if in the process we forget who we are, and if we lose track of the uniqueness and sacredness in each of us. As I've written and said many times in the past, we are each a note, a necessary note, in the song of life.

Like everyone else who heard her, I was deeply impressed by 22-year-old Amanda Gorman who read her poem The Hill We Climb at the inauguration. She started writing poetry as a young child in order to help herself out of a speech problem. She is truly amazing. She has stated that when she's old enough under the Constitution, she would like to run for president. Hillary Clinton has already promised to vote for her!

I find being of advanced age sometimes frightening, because I'm not sure I can clearly listen to what our young people are saying. They are the hope. I'm told the average age of the members of the United States Senate is in the 70s someplace. Maybe people like Amanda Gorman can help them hear the future.

It seems appropriate for me to end with a few lines from Amanda's poem,

We’ve braved the belly of the beast

We’ve learned that isn’t peace

And the norms and notions

of what just is

Isn’t always just-ice

And yet the dawn is ours

Before we knew it

Somehow we do it

Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed

a nation that isn’t broken

but simply unfinished

We the successors of a country and a time

Where a skinny Black girl

descended from slaves and raised by a single mother

can dream of becoming president

only to find herself reciting for one

(Reflection excerpted from Brother Toby)


Jason Mraz - Living In The Moment

Johnny Nash - I Can See Clearly Now

Jimmy Cliff - Many Rivers To Cross

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