While walking along a river in the North Country I came upon a frail looking old man with long white beard and flowing grey robe leaning on a staff and gazing at the water rushing by. “Good morning” I said.
He smiled and asked, “How long you been on the trail?”
“Oh about an hour I guess.”
“Is that all? Are you sure?” He added.
“Well, how long have you?” I asked challengingly.
“All my life” he grinned.
Great, I thought, some kind of guru! I was not really in the mood to go deep this morning. I was much more interested in chewing on my private thoughts and worrying all the worries I’d collected over the week.
“You seem to be somewhere other than on a walk,” he added.
“Well I was just taking a walk to ease my mind. Then you showed up.” I said with just a little petulance.
“I haven’t really showed up yet.”
“Uh, what?” I blurted. Is this guy crazy? I wondered.
“You’re so much into your head that I’m not really here for you yet.”
“Explain,” I said becoming a little interested where he was coming from.
“You’re so much in your mind right now that you’re not meeting me, you’re meeting only your mind.”
“Ahh mindfulness, I know about that!”
“Then why aren’t you there?”
“I was trying to until I ran into you.”
“No you weren’t. You were busy listening to your own mind!”
“I was being with my thoughts, being mindful of them.” I said in defense.
“You believe that don’t you?”
“Don’t believe everything you think. You know, mindfulness isn’t about making up what you want to be mindful to. It’s being with whatever is there. You were caught up in and believing what your mind was telling you. You know all that stuff in your head is bullshit don’t you?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“The events in your life aren’t causing you pain it’s your mind chatter that is causing you to suffer. Your beliefs about the way things should be rather than being mindful of the way they are is causing you pain that you then devaluate and that takes you even further out of the moment.”
“I know this!” I interrupted angrily.
“No you don’t! Knowing is paying attention and you are not paying attention! You can’t see the world that’s in front of you because you aren’t looking at it you’re looking at what’s inside your head. You reject what is and because of this you find yourself not at peace. To be at peace you need to cooperate with how things are, then you can see how things need to be.”
“How do you know this?” I asked growing more interested.
“Simply by paying attention.”
“But what about my problems?”
“Most of your problems are but a side effect of not having a clear relationship with reality.”
“But I need to figure out how to make something happen. I need to solve these problems I’m thinking about.” I pleaded.
“You’ve allowed yourself to be conned into thinking that you have control of anything. Stop that. Don’t make things happen, let them happen, you can’t force life into submission. Give yourself permission to be where you’re at.”
“Somehow that feels right.” I said and he smiled and then vanished. I could hear the water washing over the rocks, the wind singing through the trees , the rustle of leaves, and birds calling to one another. It was so peaceful.
Peace be with you.