Jean Marie Gunner

Jean Marie Gunner
We are all basically good.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Once Upon a Moment

As I arrived on the Buffalo River Saturday morning for my first ever regatta in which my son would be rowing, I was struck by the quality of the morning.  It was a crisp, cold fall day with a cloudless, poignant blue sky.  Sitting in the warmth of my car I felt momentarily bewildered.  Then, the sun began to rise and penetrate my mind’s fog and uncertainty.  I began to read the following words from the bestseller, Turning the Mind Into an Ally:

“Everything is always coming together and falling apart, and it doesn’t seem to pose a problem for anyone but us.  Spring knows how to be summer and autumn leaves know how to fall down.  Coming together and falling apart is the movement of time, the movement of life.”

Funny since I had just been thinking about the autumn leaves and their brilliant display of color and beauty albeit fleeting.  Knowing that the natural beauty would only last for a very short while made them seem even more stunningly lovely.  Come to think of it, anything or anyone only last for a very short while but that doesn’t diminish the timeless beauty of any of us.  The beauty and goodness just keep going. 

This has been one magnificent fall, a jubilation of color.  My neighbor’s beech tree across the street was bursting with color for weeks as if on fire from the inside, a grand finale of color day after day this fall.  The mix of yellow and orange were luminous and pulsated when I looked in the tree’s direction.  I could feel the wakeful quality of the tree and its brilliance.  The leaves look as if they are fluorescent, aglow in shades of orange, red, yellow and sour apple green.

Like that one true love we feel will be in our hearts forever, I feel this fall and the beech tree ablaze with golden shining hues of yellow and orange will reside within my heart for always. That beech’s colorful display was here and alive one day, and then, the next day I drive by and all the leaves are down.  What a sad but true moment.  I felt so open in this sensory experience of true perception.  Yet like that one true love, the leaves fall and we acknowledge that and move on eventually.  Okay there may be some clinging but eventually we must move forward.  And then, one day we wake up and that dry, hollow emptiness is gone like the leaves from the tree.

This same week of the beech tree’s once upon a moment brilliance that had all fallen to the ground, this human being, this mom, this woman  was opened by the connection, the raw, absolute, beautiful, impermanent quality of the connection with our world.  And my body and its nerve endings tingled with reminders of aliveness.

As I began this writing, I was on the Buffalo River and had been struggling with where I belong; I then recovered my mind as I walked into the crisp fall morning surrounded by Buffalo’s grain mills of the river.  I glanced down to see a single late summer hold out of a yellow flower.  Its steadfastness and courage touched my heart.  On this October morning as I moved through time, I was aware that being awake and aware in the present helps create a more peaceful future.  After about ten minutes of standing somewhat awkwardly alone in the middle of the regatta crowd, my son came to me and suggested I go back to the car.  I figured that this would make him more comfortable, to not see his mom looking so alone.  I thanked him and moved on to my spot for the day.  I spread out my fleece blanket upon a large granite boulder, took my seat, covered my thighs with another fleece blanket, and began to eat an apple.  Indeed I was alone but in the company of many others. 

I contentedly sat there perched upon that rock and contemplated emptiness.  We often think of emptiness as the lack of something.  For me, emptiness began to take on a new quality and meaning, empty as in making space within me, my mind, my heart, my path, my life for others to enter my life.  The making of that room took practice, a practice of mindfulness, peacefulness, and compassion.  Practicing loving kindness helps me to make room for others, family, friends, strangers and even those who challenge me.  It occurred to me that our mind in its most awakened state is content and peaceful and joyous by its very nature; that this nature is basic goodness and it is all of our birthright. It belongs to no one in particular, no religion, no philosophy, no nation, no political party.  It is ours, all of ours.    

These thoughts were interrupted by the natural elegance and form of our children carrying down their boats.  The teamwork of putting in the boats for the launch was a visual reminder of how much we really are all connected.  The way they carried down the shells and flipped them on cue carefully setting them on the side of the dock.  The grace of human synchronicity as they worked as one body and mind. 

With the boats in the water, and the rowers launched and working their way upstream for the start of the race, my mind returned to the thoughts that I had temporarily put on hold.  We just keep seeking the next right thing that will work out in our lives.  The next right moment of hoping for what our heart’s desire actually takes us right out of the place our heart is most at home, the present.  If we are fully engaged in the sensory realm, engaging our sense perceptions helps us to feel peace and the emptiness which is really a magical place.  It is luminous and awake like the autumn splendor.  When we empty and make space within us we lighten our load.  We offload our worries, anxieties, fears, and concerns over the future or that we are not enough.  Here in the present we are enough, there are no qualifications or anything really for or against us.  There is this sense that there is absolutely nothing missing from our life.  Like right now as I script this, my son is playing a game, my other son is with his papa, and I am sipping on a glass of red to a recording of Maynard Ferguson Orchestra.  There is no other place for me to be in this world but here alone with me surrounded by my writing with contentment and joy in my heart.

 “No matter what we do to hold ourselves together, the truth is that we are always falling apart.” 

(Quotes from Turning the Mind Into an Ally, Sakyong Mipham)



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