I woke and dressed myself as early as if it were a work day to take the metro and then the bus to the little playground/park where we entered the creek. It was already promising today’s humid heat in the sun, but it was pleasant in the shade. The group was a good size. Large enough to get some work done, but small enough to stay easily connected. We divided the work — path or creek — based on who wore which shoes, which allocated the cleaning well.
It was a beautiful way to appreciate off the mat the Anusara axioms, “look for the good,” and “respond from the highest.” As you can see from the pictures, Long Branch Creek is a lovely sanctuary of greenery and running water. It is evidently not fresh, but it is still giving its all. We could see the beauty, but also recognize that the creek could more powerfully share the energy of nature if it was not so dirty. Rather than complain that the creek was dirty and dangerous and stay away from it, we were invited to appreciate both what it is and what it could be and got our feet wet and ourselves dirty to be with the creek. I wish it weren’t necessary, and I will be looking for more ways to try and contribute less waste, but I think in the meantime, it would be right to do this more often.
We have a choice. We can emphasize what we don’t think enhances life (for example, an over-sized, gas-guzzling, suburban SUV with city plates) or we can focus on an exquisite reflection of beauty. That we see what optimally would better be changed or shifted to be more fully aligned with nature or that we speak of it does not mean that we are not seeing beauty or embracing the whole of life with love.
One of the things I like best about going west for a retreat is being able to relish with ease the time before and at sunrise. At home, I sometimes sleep through dawn once the days get long. The light is just extraordinary at the ending and the beginning of the day, revealing the openings in space and time.
As it is every year, the Azalea Walk at the National Arboretum fills me with joy and wonder. “Was it really this splendid last year?” one of my companions asked. “I go every year,” she said, “but I forget how gorgeous it is!” She comes back each year to remember the beauty and the awe. So, too, it can be with our practice. We stop going to class or practicing our meditation or asana for a while because we get too busy. Then we come back, and we ask ourselves how we could have forgotten the joy and beauty a steady practice brings us, and we are inspired to commit again.
I don’t talk much about my front garden because it is not as exciting for me as the back garden with its edibles and herbs. I give a sincere effort to make the front garden beautiful and welcoming since it is my interface with the neighborhood and all who walk past my house. The front is very shady and two maple trees block the rain and drink most of the water that gets past the leaves, so it has taken some effort to find plants that thrive. Much of what is in my garden comes from other gardening friends. Plants that come from friends near-by are likely to do well moved down the street. As my garden has matured, it has needed divisions, thus giving me an opportunity to share, in turn, with younger friends and neighbors. It thus nourishes in important ways, though it offers nothing to eat.