Life's lessons learned
Looking at but not really seeing the many good things in the Eternal Now
By Christopher Nyerges 12/30/2010
Sometimes we get so caught up in the problems of now and tomorrow that we simply disable ourselves to live in the moment and enjoy the miracle of life. I’d been so focused on solving my own and other people’s problems, of growing older, of seeing friends die, of the consequences of financial mismanagement … I’d barely realized I’d fallen down the rabbit hole of not seeing before me all that is incredible.
After a meeting, I drove home around midnight, through the Arroyo Seco and near the Rose Bowl. The coolness of the night was refreshing, invigorating. I breathed deeply and found myself looking anew at the enchanting hillside landscape that has always been hidden in plain view. I realized I’d been looking but not seeing. A lone coyote runs along the rode. Further along, a skunk hides from view by swiftly descending a storm drain. A melodic bird sings. The landscape is alive and bright, and I marvel at the late-night runners still engaged in their exercises.
Though my body aches with the scars of aging, I found that my mind was fresh, young, awakening again after a long sleep. I felt 17 again (or was it 14?) when I knew that I was immortal, eternal, a part of all things. I breathed deeply and found great joy in the Eternal Now that was before me, the Eternal Now, which always is. I experienced this same Eternal Now when running and motorcycling through the Arroyo Seco years ago, and when I would stand in the rain and feel its miracle.
I had been feeling anxious, worried, concerned, and though nothing had changed, I now felt free, hopeful, curious. I wanted to share, and I began to sing and think of poetry. But I quickly realized there is nothing that needs to be done. To experience the moment is sufficient, to go fully into the beauty of the moment, and to feel the past, and present, and future, all ripe with possibilities and discoveries, all in this moment.
I could now see the lights of the city and the peaks of the Angeles Forest with its occasional twinkling lights. I come by here every day, but somehow this was a new land, a magical land, the land of my mind. I began to wonder about the lot of man, working endlessly at jobs that are not enjoyed, to pursue more and better things, never defining real goals except maybe “retirement,” which is not a real goal. I felt sad, and a gust of wind sobered me up, telling me to be concerned about my own choices, to refine my own daily actions and not to dwell on whatever it is that other people do or fail to do. The wind freed me of yet another pointless anchor — the thinking about what “other people” do or don’t do.
Be here now. Wasn’t that the title of an old hippie book? Be here now. Easy to say, hard to do. But it has become the main dictum in my inner religion, and though I have no church, the Arroyo Seco is the closest I’ve found. It is my homeland, my place of work and dreams, my place of endless adventures and ongoing discoveries. It is my Walden Pond, my Field of Dreams, my Golden Pond. It is simultaneously nothing and everything. It is a vehicle through which I continually find myself, still that same Self, still in that same body (for now), still eager to learn and to grow.
I finally got home and stood outside looking at the stars, feeling the cool evening wind. It felt good to be “up” and to know the fight is not over. I could feel the meaning of Bodhi-Dharma’s insightful words: “Fall down seven times, get up eight! Life starts from NOW.”
And I began to realize; isn’t that the Christmas message? To rise again from the darkness, to be reborn again from the depths of the winter, to rediscover our inner selves and our neighbors in this darkest time of the year? I felt a deep inner appreciation for whatever it was that provided me with this insight, this knowledge that I am a part of everything and everyone. I realized then that to truly experience the real meaning of Christmas I needed to create the environment so that the Christ within can be born again within my own soul.
Christopher Nyerges is the author of “Guide to Wild Foods,” “Enter the Forest,” “How to Survive Anywhere” and “Testing Your Outdoor Survival Skills.” He has been leading wild food outings since 1974. A schedule of his classes is available from the School of Self-Reliance, Box 41834, Eagle Rock, Calif., 90041, or online at christophernyerges.com.