Being Present
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Solitary fisherman on a wintry river
Solitary fisherman on a wintry river.
November 2009


With the sky full of birds migrating for the winter and the fields turning empty, the cycle of existence has become more obvious. An inevitable cycle, even in its variations, in which one both participates and is a witness; human nature woven of nature’s weave; seasons echoing human growth and maturity; the crescendo of a life echoed in the glow and fade of a single day. Aware of this transition into winter, one is both affected and separate from it. When nature goes underground, leaving everything that was once flourishing to decline, it is the signal to go inward, to leave the world behind. Yet this is not so easy to do. Why leave a flourishing garden for a cold, unknown darkness?

Witnessing this cycle where life-form so quickly lose their shape and die, one sees its principle, the process of transformation from the visible into the invisible. Other forms of transformation are all around us. A caterpillar turns into a butterfly, a transformation so total that there seems to be no relationship at all between the caterpillar and its new, airborne incarnation. Day turns to night, a cycle so radical that one only accepts it because it has happened everyday for as long as one can remember. And in the internal cycle of sleep to consciousness, imagination to presence, a transformation occurs that is equally great; the puppet becomes a real boy, the statue comes to life, the dead resurrect.

So the dull state of sleep then is part of a process yet not the result, necessary yet not acceptable, the winter before the spring. The approaching winter is a symbol of real inner change, the psychological transformation of sleep into consciousness. In the process of awakening, sleep remains unaltered, the skin of a former existence, a component in the cycle of life and death. It is from the inert material of sleep that the conscious Self emerges.

A thousand mountains and no bird
Ten thousand paths without a footprint
A little boat, a bamboo cloak
An old man fishing in the cold river-snow
Liu Zongyuan