November 2009

Walking in My Own Neighborhood


I went for a walk this afternoon. The air was cold but the sun was bright, so I felt warmed inside. And while I walked, I noticed many things both great and small that reminded me of larger truths. In a way, this didn’t surprise me, as many religious traditions teach that the spiritual world is mirrored in the physical world. What made today special for me is that I slowed my pace and took time to notice and to reflect on what I observed.

Perhaps the most obvious thing was the changing of the seasons. A few flowers, still in bloom from late-summer, seemed out-of-place. The change to winter is inevitable, though it occurs at different rates around us. Not all plants respond at the same pace, just as people might react differently to changes in their own environment or changes in the needs and circumstances of humankind. Abdul-Baha, son of the Founder of the Baha’i Faith, wrote “It is the inherent nature of things on this earth to change, thus we see around us the change of the seasons. There is a sequence in all things.” Thinking about this in larger terms, I realized that a sequence can be cyclical as well as linear, and therein is the renewal we see every spring as well as the forward movement of human enlightenment and inspiration.

I also saw evidence of competition (a plant over-crowding another), cooperation (a neighbor helping another to re-roof his house) and sacrifice (a youth allowing his younger brother to win a ballgame). Competition and cooperation in nature, as in human social interactions, are common and probably speak for themselves. However, while watching the two young boys, I thought about how sacrifice is not a bad thing; to the contrary, it feels good to sacrifice for another person for a higher cause.

Looking at how folks had landscaped their yards I found I was less attracted to homogenous borders and more toward areas with lots of variety. Similarly a section along the river, where the plants were varied, was more visually interesting. In nature, as in people, diversity is more appealing, more magnetic, and ultimately more natural. I then considered how tending a garden is similar to educating children; in both cases the goal is to bring out the highest potential of the diverse elements to promote beauty, harmony and well-being. And just as gardens always need tending, so do people of all ages need to continue to learn.

After an hour or so, as the sun got lower in the sky and I found the air around me chilly again, I realized how this reflected a spiritual truth as well. We humans are warmed in the presence of the sun, whether it be our bodies warmed by the physical sun or our spirits warmed by something from the non-physical realm, such as “light” in the form of “truth.” As we turn toward truth, as we let it in and illumine ourselves, we are warmed, enriched and enlightened.


© Jaellayna Palmer 2009