When Life Is A Messy Openness

Musings / Saturday, November 9th, 2019

Every now and then, I come across moments that shine with irradiance, that mock my cynicism, that glitter with the fragile wings of lost hope, that move me even when I think I have ceased to feel. 

Saturdays are usually my long run days. I hadn’t gone on a really long run since running the Bangalore Marathon last month. The days since then have been mostly short runs of just over an hour. So, today, when I set the distance to 15km, I am nervous. When I step out at 6am, I notice with surprise that it had rained in the night. The air seems still heavy with the weight of it, like the last sigh of a dying flame. 

I run two desultory rounds around my apartment block before stepping outside. One of the blessings of living away from the city center as I do is that I have a beautiful forest as my backyard to run through. In my ears, there’s random music. In my mind, the usual churning – I had to return a client’s call from yesterday. Take another client’s call at 12:30pm. I have to pay this bill. I have to go there. Do this. Do that. The haves and the shoulds. The musts and the dos. My body is on its own path. My mind on another. I am discombobulated, utterly out of life. And then, as I duck under a shrub, I am showered with drops from some naughty leaves. Do I wake up then? I don’t know. But something changes in me from then. I pause and notice for the first time how each leaf is clinging to the last remnants of rain. In each drop, I see colors. Fractals of light shimmering. I take a deep breath. The world shifts. 

As I run, I see a man standing still by the road, staring up at the sky. Is he waiting for the sun to appear, perhaps? His palms are clasped together to his forehead, as if in prayer. As if he is waiting in reverence. It’s eerie. Watching him just standing there like this. There’s no one else around. But for the moment, I can feel his stillness as I run past him. And just for that moment, some of that stillness glides over me. Enough for me to stop and gaze out with him. He doesn’t notice. May you receive whatever you are praying for, I think, wishing him mentally. Is this the Metta that I am supposed to give but struggle with despite hours and hours of meditation? Is it as natural and as easy as this? Perhaps. Perhaps. 

The world continues to shift. How do I describe then the beauty of what I saw? I start to see more as my mind removes its cobwebs. I see a flock of pigeons line up on the electricity cables, their shadows just silhouettes against the still-emerging sun. Further on, two dogs stare at me curiously. And then, past the slush and mud, a few cows chew contentedly on their early morning breakfast. There are gently flowing rivulets that I run over. The water gets in my shoes, and instead of cringing, I find myself curiously welcoming the cold. The discomfort stays until it doesn’t.

A pumpkin flower winks at me. Sunbirds move in and out busily. Perhaps, they have more client calls than us? My feet are in now in a rhythm with my mind. I don’t hear the miles. I don’t feel the miles. But I am feeling the world. A woman on her way to work gives me a broad smile, stepping aside as if I am a roaring hurricane instead of the gentle pace at which I am ambling along. But her smile warms me. I cross the main highway and emerge on to the smaller lanes I love. A flock of herons, white against the slowly coloring sky, go up in protest. I spot storks nesting higher up. Two men are performing jumping jacks and pause in shyness when they see me. I laugh and they grin sheepishly. I feel enveloped by a warmth I had forgotten. I felt indescribably loved and hugged. Maybe, this is what makes theists turn to the Divine. I am still an atheist. But for a moment, it was like there was someone out there who loves you deeply, and is showing you every facet of that love. And then, on my way back, I see this:

For most of my life, I have lived in morbid fear of worms and caterpillars. I don’t mind snakes. I have no problems with lizards or roaches or spiders. But I am absolutely terrified of worms. And now here’s an entire bush crawling with caterpillars.

I want to run faster than ever before when I see this tree. Break personal records, perhaps. But maybe there’s more to this story than running. Maybe, this story is about staying. I stop and take a deep breath. I bend down, peering at the caterpillars clinging to every branch and twig. I can see their translucent hair. I gaze closely into their eyes. I am hyperventilating. I am calm. I am everything and nothing at that moment. But then, the caterpillars aren’t doing anything. They are just crawling along, minding their own business. Another deep breath and I find myself absurdly wishing the nearest caterpillar: May you be well. May you be happy.

I realize then that in wishing well of what we detest, we only wish ourselves well. Somewhere, there’s an eternal truth in that I really need to grasp.

I go on. I run past a Brahmini kite that shows me that flying is way better than running. A parakeet cackles noisily into a tree. An old man and I both pause to observe it. Another moment of stillness. The sky opens up in a blaze of light. As the music stills in my head, I can feel finally what I have only read about:

That we can find moments of openness, even in all the messy fragility of our lives. Or even despite it. That there is so much space if we can find it. If we can trust ourselves to that process. That there is a love that can transform our torn hearts. That there is really all this wide-open sky you can breathe into. 

For this moment. For these moments. And that it’s really available if only we remember to look. If we are open to looking.

I hadn’t been looking. I hadn’t been anything for a while. But a morning made of dew-dripped moments might perhaps make me look again. Feel again. Yes. This looking doesn’t change much externally, I know. My life is still a mess. I am still a mess. I wish I knew what I was doing with my life. I wish I can worry less and smile more. I wish that I could be less caustic and abrasive. I wish that I can be kinder and more compassionate. I wish I can find the answers. I wish I knew the questions.

But for now, I can at least feel that, somehow, I can rest awhile in this messy openness. That it is a beautiful mess. 

6 Replies to “When Life Is A Messy Openness”

    1. 5 years now! We need a intervention to get you to the dentist. I will get in touch with V. Maybe, we can drug you and drag you there? *mulls over her options

    1. I miss our intangible email conversations, Karen! My fault, entirely! I should reply. I will reply. Please give my love to Dave. And a warm hug to you. I will be back. I promise.

  1. This – “Another deep breath and I find myself absurdly wishing the nearest caterpillar: May you be well. May you be happy” – I think is the one of the bravest things you did. Actually wishing a caterpillar well! And even standing near it. Next step – leech.

    And this – I realize then that in wishing well of what we detest, we only wish ourselves well.

    Wishing well is always like a mirror to ourselves.

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