Monday, October 17, 2011

Wandering Mystic Meditation From Washington

Travel takes us across rite-of-passage thresholds and to the jagged edge of life. In Poetry As Survival, Gregory Orr wrote, "It is on a threshold, at the edge, where we are most able to alter our understanding of the world, and of our own lives in it."

Walking down a forest path on Washington State's Whidbey Island,  I glanced up and saw this maple leaf pierced by a thin twig, barely moving with the misty breeze. The path was thickly strewn with alder leaves, evergreen needles, and small branches coated with moss: evidence of a windstorm two nights before. The silence was palpable and calming.

How this particular leaf came to be suspended high above those on the ground was a striking example of pure chance. It's future destiny was unpredictable. Would it hang suspended until its brittle skin gave way? Would the next storm blow it off its precarious perch? Or would it still be there in spring, faded to the color of parchment?

The day before my stroll in the woods, I'd attended a gathering where the words threshold, uncertainty, risk and vulnerability were often used. Those of us in the meeting hall surrounded by these woods considered times that we (like the maple leaf) are suspended awkwardly yet elegantly above where we'd naturally come to rest.

 A threshold is a place of transition, like the forest-encircled meadow I'd crossed that morning. It's the place where trees root into soil, where waves roll onto sand, where invisible breath turns to visible vapor, where ancient answers meet new questions. A threshold is also a potentially-dangerous space where vulnerability reigns: the borderland between wild and tame, safe and risky, open and concealed, dark and light. More literally, a threshold is a doorway, where sometimes it's best to pause noting what one has left behind and what one is about to enter.

We are never immune to these transitions. As Orr wrote, "(A threshold is) where we become aware that we are on the borderline between order and disorder…like standing at the brink of a cliff, or the edge of an ocean, or the beginning of a love affair." A place simultaneously awe-inspiring and scary, where our senses and sensibilities are intensified, where we are more awake and squirming with countless uncertainties and countless possibilities.

In this wild unpredictable season called autumn, when snows may come early or warm spells linger late, pause amidst uncertainty and breathe deep. Step back to reflect or surge forward with the flow as need be. Stay open to messages wafting over the threshold. Do not bolt the door against what comes toward you.

Nancy G. Shapiro is a coach and writer who conducts writing and well-being retreats at LifePath Center and other locales.

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