Writing this article has truly been a How You Do Anything Is How You Do Everything affair. I have started four or five times, even nearly finished a couple of times. There is SO much I want to say, SO much I want to share—so much, that it seems to implode into, well, into a conditioned confusion and dilution. A near paralysis. Wait! THAT’S it! THAT is the process!
I remember on our first trip to Africa, meeting a young girl with HIV. These were the early days of treating HIV in Africa and she was struggling—her face puffy, limbs swollen, a hacking cough; it’s likely she did not make it much beyond our meeting her. I lay awake that night running the details and possibilities in my head. “Okay, we could… and then we’ll… If we could get …. Then….” The next day was the first of probably hundreds of conversations with the Guide that went along the lines of me laying out elaborate plans and ideas which were met with, “Perhaps. We’re not there yet. Let’s attend to where we are today.”
Being a “good Zen student,” I would always respond with, “Okay.” But inside there was a conversation insisting on the need for “action” and planning and research and networking (that’s a big one for this person’s karma—got to get a lot of people involved!). “Let’s get this thing moving. There is SO much good we could do here!”
Over many, many years, here is the hard-won, just-how-it-works awareness: EVERY time that process of planning, thinking it out, figuring it out leads to… nowhere. Actually, it does lead somewhere. It leads to overwhelm and paralysis and SO many possibilities that it gets confused and diluted.
I wish everyone could have the great good fortune to work alongside Practice, the Guide, in such a practical endeavor. The decisions that are made, the actions that are taken always seem so “small.” A conditioned response might be, “That? In the face of this? What good is THAT going to do?” And yet when we look at it, all of life happens in those tiny, micro movements.
So many “big,” elaborate plans (offered in conditioned mind) have been let go to make space for these micro movements of presence, of care, of love. And it has resulted in what we have today: over 1,000 children eating every day; women in college (I get goosebumps with that one every time); access to healthcare. I won’t go on and on since it’s all well-documented on the site.
I confess it is a teaching I am still working to take in—to truly be allowed to rest in the joy and relaxation of attending to what is in front of me, Here, Now, the micro movements of love and care that seem to be placed in our path moment by moment. I work with choosing that over the addiction to “big” ideas, lining things up just right, making the most out of…. And it seems to be the most rewarding work a human could do.
Many “great” ideas hit the cutting room floor to allow the space for this article. And maybe it’s not always either/or. Who says you can’t have addendums to your newsletter article? An excerpt from one of my favorites below. (She does like to share!)
On a recent Sunday afternoon we encountered three baby squirrels on the ground, scattered some distance from one another. Two had not made it. One had. We gently lifted her and placed her in a tub, covering her with pieces of soft towel. Wildlife rescue coached us to place the tub on a heating pad to keep her warm until they could meet us the next day to hand her off.
Checking on her several times that evening and into the next morning, I watched how much care arose in hearing her scratch around in her tub—this little, tiny life force moving about.
When I met the woman from wildlife rescue the next morning, she expertly picked up the baby and held her, using a dropper to feed her some much-needed milk. Turns out baby squirrels are cute! I got to pet her very soft, 4-week old head. A once-in-a-lifetime treat. The milk they fed her was squirrel’s milk they keep on hand for just such occasions!
I was looking at all of it on the way home, with my empty “nest” (the tub ready to be returned to its home in the monk’s shed, for cleaning): the squirrel’s milk, the heating pad overnight, the trip into town and the weeks of care the baby squirrel would now receive in her new wildlife rescue home before being returned to the great outdoors. Is that sustainable for one squirrel? There must be thousands, millions, like that out there?
Ah, but she is the one Life put in our path.