#45 How to Observe Without Purpose

As I set route to run through Golden Gate Park, I’m halted and forcibly ambushed by the senses. Every where I turn I’m infiltrated by the colors, smells, sights, and sounds of nature.

Today I will walk and observe.

The beauty of the different varieties of tree and plant life accompanied with different flowers and species of animal can’t clearly be described through words.

Despite this, I will try. I will describe a specific occurrence.

Please come with me on this short journey.

Observation

After a short run, I head towards a secluded area in the south lawns of the park. I’ve made it a habit to come empty handed, except for the air in my lungs.

I take my shoes off, lay a blanket down, sit down cross-legged, and observe the landscape around me.

I observe the gentle tugs of the wind and see how it rustles the leaves of every tree branch down to the smallest blade of grass.

The Wind

I start to think about the wind and its grandeur. How can this invisible force hold the power to move matter, affect our body temperature, and even make noise is beyond me.

Even though it becomes quite windy in the evening hours in the Richmond District of San Francisco, I find myself comfortable and at home in my shorts and almost translucent t-shirt.

I’ve made peace with the fact that the I that is me is not cold rather, the body is. I enjoy cold showers now.

Since I’ve been lessoning the need to identify myself from the elements so has my attachment or aversions to things like the cold. This understanding of the cold and how it relates to the body has helped me understand the psychological problems in my life.

Like the wind, I can invite these problems but don’t have to identify with them. I can acknowledge them for what they are, but don’t feel the need to go further than that.

It’s a powerful tool to know that we have the ability to feel anyway we want about almost anything.

Nature

Before I meditate I observe everything in front of me.

The pleasing sight of many shades of green, colorful flowers, tall and short plant life, and the many species of birds and insects put me in a state of awe.

If nature can live in harmony with such differences, why can’t we?

There is nothing systematic or routine about nature, yet when we look at nature as a whole, it makes sense.

I see miniature like sunflowers scattered around the tree I was sitting under. I saw them dancing with the wind and saw how each flower stands just as proud as the tallest trees.

It makes me think about ego and how the ego is just an illusory force that inhibits us from standing tall and proud because it’s looking at others to validate its self worth.

Nature has taught me that being myself has always been enough and being enough is more than one could ask for in this lifetime.

The Beating Ground

I looked closely at the ground and could see it actually breathing with me.

If you’ve ever tried to be completely still and suspend your thoughts for a few minutes, perhaps you can experience this spectacle.

We all know the earth is a living and breathing organism but to see it in this way brings clarity that this world is as alive as our beating hearts.

The Sky

I gaze up at the sky and to my surprise, the canvas of the heavens was empty with not a cloud in sight. It was infinite blue and vast like the pacific herself.

If you ever find yourself down or at odds with life, just look to the sky. Nature blesses us with a new and realtime painting everyday.

I can never capture the same beauty of the sky twice. It’s a lesson in the always changing and temporal nature of the world.

I find it hard to be upset at anything for too long because like the sky, it will change.

I close my eyes…

and say goodbye to the world for a moment as I begin to meditate.

I practice anapana breathing which was a technique I learned during my 10-day silent re-treat.

Anapana means being aware of each breath and the sensations you feel throughout your body. The breathing helps you make peace with what is here. It’s taking a definitive and uncompromising stance that you can’t be anywhere but here. It’s understanding that right now is all that you will ever have.

I continue to breathe and notice the sun’s light warming the left side of my face. It’s a comforting feeling and reminds me of a story about my mother.

When I was younger, my mother would pick me up from school. I’d sit on the passenger side and lean my face against the glass. The sun’s light would warm the glass against my cheek. I felt as if my mother could drive forever without a care because I was so comfortable. I recall asking my mom if she could go around the block once more before we got home. She smiled and obliged. Maybe she felt what I felt. Maybe, in that moment, she didn’t have a care in the world either. It’s funny how the most inordinate things can make you think of something so close to your childhood.

I continued to meditate and noticed the sun’s light moving from the left part of my face to the center of it. I started to think about everything that is happening in our universe that is making this one event possible.

I started to think about sun’s 93 million mile distance from us, the 7 minutes it takes for its light to get to us, and the fact that the Earth has been spinning at 1000 mph on its own axis for the past 3.8 billion years.

I started to think about how the sun can do this to me and at the same time give energy and warmth to everything on the planet. The sun has the ability to carry an intimate relationship with each of us at the same time.

It’s in observations like these where any psychological problem I may have had ceases to exist. There are too many miracles happening in front of us at every moment.

We can open up to them at anytime.

When I opened my eyes…

the world became more gentle and calm. She was more beautiful than I left her.

There was a subtle hue of green all around me. I took one deep breathe and filled my lungs with the classical element that we will all become one day — air.

Knowing that I’ll go back into the ether has become the defining reason to do anything in life.

Life is fleeting and death is looming. These are obvious statements that we all know but it has become all the reason for me to live freely today.

I’m losing my grip on life

On the outside I am fine. I know to live in this world I must work to pay bills, save for retirement, eat, help others, and maybe even get married one day. But I’m losing my grip because the more I observe reality and educate myself, the less I know and the more lost I feel.

My heart bleeds when I see the homeless. I hate the fact that there are wars and famine. I cringe at the fact that women and children are victimized. Why am I so fortunate? What is so good about me? Why can’t I be the change that everyone talks about?

I envy the sun and the wind. They can accept reality for what it is and perform their duties with no regard. I know very little except that living deliberately is what brings me joy in this crazy world. Observation is the space I try to stay in as much as I can.

With Love,

Anand Swamy

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