Thursday, November 7, 2013

Autumn's Leaves

I'm sitting in the living room trying to read but the beautiful maple tree in my neighbor's front yard fills the window by my chair and has been keeping me distracted. Weeks ago it started the shift from green to brilliant reds and oranges, followed over the past week and a half by a slow, subtle shift to light oranges as it worked its way to the intoxicating yellow that it is today.

But what keeps me engrossed is watching it shed its leaves. Yesterday, in a day of rain and wind, the leaves flew off constantly, in every direction, as if the tree was on a mission to shed every vestige of covering. Today, a cold, but quiet and sunny autumn day, the leaves come off at random. Now one here, then one there, then nothing at all, then another one, unexpectedly, on the back side. It's beautiful to watch.

The process so much makes me think of the spiritual path. By the time we ever find the path we have full lives; filled with friends, family, careers, possessions, hobbies, interests, passions, and everything else we use to define who we are. Not only do all of these seem normal, they are normal to an extent, but we convince ourselves that the tree of our life is beautiful because of all of these things. Without the leaves of all we take for granted, we have been trained to think that the tree of our lives is bare.

But once we find the path, and make some progress along its length, we see that as more and more of the leaves fall, we get a clearer view of where we are headed, a clearer and clearer view of our destination.

But people don't see this at the start. They shout, i don't want to give up the brilliant reds of my passions. I don't want to surrender the bright yellows of this interest or that, the calming greens of a good book or beautiful music. I don't see any harm in holding on to the things of my life, it's what makes my tree full, beautiful, a thing to admire.

Then, with a little more time spent on the path, how many miles and kilometers depends on each person, we come to see that by shedding the leaves, the tree isn't dying it's just getting ready for winter. And what is winter? It is nothing more than that period where the tree gets itself ready for the upcoming spring.

Enduring the winter can be hard if all you focus on is the cold and snow. But if you understand that the tree is doing internal work that can't be seen from the outside, that the tree is preparing itself for new growth once spring comes, then winter is a time of great anticipation.

As you walk along your path today, look at some of your leaves, wonder why you are so averse to letting them drop. Is there a mistaken belief that without all of these leaves life will be bare and dead? Is there a fear of what will come during the unknown winter season?

Instead, look past winter. Look through the veil and try and focus on the dim images of what spring will bring. Your tree will blossom again, your tree will fill someone's window. Your tree will captivate you once again, but with different, even more beautiful leaves.

Every teacher who has seen next spring's tree tells us the view is worth many a winter's wait. Be patient, spring will arrive. And you can't even imagine how beautiful your life will be.

Our job is simply to keep walking, facing the goal, no matter the season. Spring will come if you just.keep.walking.

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