Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Judging the Falling Leaf

Walking in the detritus of Autumn. Traversing a landscape with piles of leaves, leaves blowing across the streets, swirled in corners against buildings, damp, dry, brilliant and crushed to brown soggy pulp. What a beautiful reminder of this constant cycle in which we all exist, that of our budding beginnings, coming into full leaf, pulsing with chlorophyll and the means of production to sustain life. Then at a certain moment, draining of that functional ability, turning into something of a different color, a flare marking our existence before detaching, letting loose from the juices of breath and voice, and drying, crackling, falling, drifting, rejoining the substance from which we came in the first place.

So what is beauty? What has value here? What is the meaning? Where is the kernel of justification for everything? Do these definitions and categories change anything about the bud, the green leaf, the tinged yellow, falling brown or decomposed leaf? It is natural for the mind to see the details and acknowledge attraction or repulsion -- does a rotting tomato appeal to you the way a red ripe one does? I don't think so, usually. But if you look without the judging as to whether you want to eat it or not, or touch it or not, perhaps you will see it within the confines of its own beauty.

Some practices put forth the contemplation of the dead as a way of understanding ourselves. To watch the decay of the body is a reminder that we are all one with the dust, one with the microbes and bacteria, one with the water flowing, the leaves falling, the next breath taken by someone else. It is a tough lesson to learn that way, and yet there is much beauty in it. The decay process is not ugly or beautiful, just as the brown leaf or the red leaf is not ugly or beautiful. It is the mind that makes it so. This judging mind is so often turned up to a high setting, aimed at ourselves or others, at each corner of the world in which we spend our days.

The yoga mat, or the site of any meditation, offers a place where for even a few moments you can contemplate letting go of the judgmental mind. Pick up a few leaves -- green, fall colors, brown -- and use them as a focal point for your practice. Let them suggest to you that judging them is a mindless inquiry. Seeing them is an awareness practice, can lead to single-pointed focus, and help you let go of pre-conceived ideas even of your body, your possibilities, your self. Allow yourself to feel the leaves as part of your own cycle, to feel your own beating heart as part of theirs.

I often feel the leaf in me as I drift to the earth for Savasana, not judging where I fall, noticing the support wherever I touch the earth, and feeling the lightness of my curling parts in the air, never minding the next gust of wind that takes me flying.

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