Life is wildly precious. It is filled with beauty beyond measure that can wrench your heart wide open and shine the light in forgotten corners that are otherwise steeped in shadow. When I attended my first large Thich Nhat Hanh retreat in 2007 I came away with a deep belief, that I still carry with me, that in the world, in life, there is more beauty than sorrow. Which is also to say, there is more light than darkness. We may get caught in the realm of thinking that it is the opposite – that there is more suffering, more dis-ease than goodness but I see the world as containing more gifts to be grateful for over burdens to be embittered by. It’s up to us which realm we live in. That in which cultivates joy and freedom or that in which perpetuates suffering and holds us down.
One of the most instrumental tools I’ve found to practice honoring and embracing life is through volunteering. When we give freely our valuable time and presence to someone or something else bigger than us, to those in need, the environment, or the wealth of other great and worthy causes, we are cracking open our field of vision and deepening our understanding of life itself. And when we begin to widen our perspective of the world and all of its inhabitants the cultivation of gratitude is inevitable.
Those that highly regard life as magnificently spectacular are those that are reverently grateful for what is. Life is a great gift. Practice gratitude. Practice seeing beauty. Practice smiling. Let us practice living our lives for all of us and not just ourselves alone.
Flathead Lake at Sunset at Big Arm State Park in Big Arm, Montana
This past weekend our Be Here Now Sangha went on an informal camping trip to Big Arm State Park on the Flathead Lake in Big Arm, Montana. On Friday night we had 7 people and by late afternoon on Saturday we were up to 12 folks in all. It was a nice time of being together as a community of friends while spending time outside on the lake.
I enjoyed the fact that in our small group we had two kids and folks in all of the decades of 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s – and even two dog friends. The intermingling of ages is something I really appreciate about Be Here Now. At our weekly sangha meetings it’s not uncommon to see the same spread of ages in our circles and I think that’s great.
On Friday night we had a little bit of weather roll in over the lake that brought some big wind gusts, flashing lightening, a beautiful mix of colors in the clouds, and just a slight sprinkle of rain. We arrived around 7:00pm on Friday with time to set up our tents and enjoy the lake a bit before the sun went down. And after the quick tempered winds passed by we were left with a very still and quiet night.
Sunrise over the Flathead Lake on Saturday August 10th
On a popular in town hike on Mount Sentinel overlooking Missoula, Montana
It’s easy to get stuck in ourselves. To internally ruminate and spin and worry and spin some more – and then worry some more. One of the fruits of developing a daily mindfulness practice is the widening of perspective. Chances are if we’re unable to move through a particular challenge or situation our perspective has become very small.
In my experience it can be helpful to physically change one’s vantage point in order to help gain perspective and unstick ourselves from being caught in our own unharmonious cycles of thought. It can be something as simple as looking up. It may seem trivial but think about how often you look up during the day. How often do we notice ceilings, the roofs of houses and buildings, tree tops, the sky? Our field of vision is oftentimes directed straight ahead or down. The practice of looking up throughout the day helps us to get out of our own head space and expand our viewpoint.
We can also put in a little leg work and go for a walk around the neighborhood or on a hike. Spending time outside, in nature, or around bodies of water also works great to open up perspective. Oftentimes we need to cultivate the art of getting out of our own way in order to begin a transformation process. The use of physical movement and/or nature involves this process inherently.