Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Letting the Sunrise and Ocean Instruct - Myrtle Beach, SC, Dec 23, 2011

I have always loved the ocean, I suppose in part because my family spent their annual vacation there throughout my childhood.  I loved being in the water, letting the waves carry me to shore and plunging back out again. I could play for hours on end; what delight!  My parents now live on the coast and I am often only back for the holidays, and I find each year I’m drawn more and more to the solitude of the beach in the winter time. This year we had an unexpected invitation to spend some time in Myrtle Beach, SC, away from everyone’s regular schedules and holiday busy-ness. Very grateful for the slowed pace of this interstitial time, I was able to enjoy a few walks on the beach, finally waking early enough to see the sun rise on my last morning there.  Amazing how forty-five minutes can be so incredibly full.  Following are some observations from the morning; I’m sure I could ponder them for the whole of next year and not be done.

    •     I was out on the shore just as light was first beginning to show, the waters were still dark. The morning was quite cloudy, with just one strip of clear sky in which to see the changing light.  It was magnificent to watch each moment pass offering something different, the colors in the sky and the reflection of the light off the ocean waters. In every moment, a great gift is being offered, a seam or gateway into a revelation that can change us forever, and this gift changes, moment to moment.  Am I attuned enough to apprehend what is being offered and present enough to receive it?  Each moment is so precious, so gorgeous, I don’t want to miss a moment of it.

    •    This slow attendance to the changing of the light was a quintessential experience of purna, or perfection and completeness. Each view was spectacular and then the next one even better.  Having thought I’d “seen it all”, I turned toward home facing a much darker sky.  At some point I got the urge to turn and look back once more, only to realize that the view had become even more magnificent.  I saw the first touch of the sun appear ringing the clouds below in gold.  I then stood there transfixed for another ten minutes or so as I watched the sun make its way through the clear patch of sky into the next layer of clouds.  The perfect becoming more perfect. This urge to turn around, to look again, was for me such a clear moment of what we call grace, “anugraha” , that which grabs hold of you, that which reveals to you what was hidden in plain sight.
    •    And how is it that I was so fortunate to be a part of this experience?  Because I woke early, I set my intention to be up in the early morning light, I set my feet in the place where it would be possible to see such a thing.  It wasn’t easy!  I had stayed up with my family late the night before and could have easily slept through it all, but I was committed to take advantage of what the last day of this place out of time might offer.  It wasn’t easy, but it was so worth the effort.  Because I had stepped with intention and attention into the moment, I became capable of receiving the grace that was pouring forth.
    •    It is interesting to me that what makes the sunrise and sunset so beautiful is just the right amount of clouds in the sky.  It is the contrast of light and dark, of clarity and opacity, that weaves together the stunningly beautiful tapestry of all the brilliant colors. 
    •    People often say that being in the grandeur of nature like this, oceans or mountains or canyons or limitless sky, makes them feel small.  That’s not the way I see it; it’s humbling for sure, but not because I feel small and insignificant, but because I somehow feel so much bigger, knowing that the same creative energy that is shining the sun and moving the tides is forming and reforming my body and breathing me into life in each moment, and is actually looking through my eyes to see another aspect of itself.  Yoga teaches us that the only way any of us has the capacity to recognize such splendor is because we ourselves are splendid.
    •    And there, amidst the changing light, was the constancy of the ocean, as steady as the breath.  Stillness in movement and movement which contains such constancy.  I could learn this lesson for years.
And here is a favorite poem of mine from one who is an expert in allowing nature to be her teacher.

Why I Wake Early -- Mary Oliver

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who made the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and the crotchety –

best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light –
good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

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