Participant or Observer?

While reading Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening this morning, he spoke of our either being a participant of an event or an observer of the event, but that if we try to be both, we are split in two. I have found this to be true through much of my life. Only in the past few years, have I learned how to separate the two, and I am successful at that endeavor about 50% of the time.

I have found myself, throughout the past few years, stopping myself on a walk through nature or even on a walk through my woods, focusing on the path in front of me, and I have realized that I am missing the beauty all around me. In other words, in my desire to be “walking,” I have forgotten the real purpose for a walk in the woods is to be observing. After all, there are so many exciting events to observe in a walk in the woods: squirrels preparing for winter by gathering food and insulation for their winter homes; birds busy with their families as they prepare themselves for their long journey south; the forest floor populated with leaves which crunch underneath my feet as I step on them; bare trees allowing me to really see them after the follage has fallen away; and my beautiful Sleeping Dragon tree being guarded by the Centurian, who has stood before it for years.

By looking down at the path before me, I miss observing the busy woods life. Once, many years ago, I was walking through the woods with my dogs, Strike and Spur. We had a destination in mind: the Sleeping Dragon, but my eyes were focused on the path, as were the dogs, who were actively sniffing the ground before us. At once, the three of us were startled by a turkey who flew up right in front of us and landed in a tree about 50 feet away. And as our heart raced with this excitement, another turkey did exactly the same thing! Now, let me tell you, this was when the turkey were just starting to come back to this area, so I had absolutely no idea what birds they were. In fact, I had no idea that they usually slept in trees! So all I glimpsed of them were two big blurs that flew up into a tree. And when I saw them in a tree, well, they looked like vultures to me. Remember, this was as the turkeys were just starting to come back to the area.

That event has stayed with me to this day because it reminded me that if I only keep my eyes on the path before me, I will miss out on the beauty and joy surrounding me.

Sometimes we are the participant. Sometimes we are the observer. But we cannot be both at the same time. As we set out intentions, we should remember to include our desire for one or the other.


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