I was sitting one morning in the reading room of the library, struggling to read through an abstruse article in a philosophical journal. The writer appeared to be avoiding clarity at all costs; as soon as a thought began to show itself, he would make it disappear again under a stratum of qualifications and side-references. He was difficult company, and by and by my mind began to drift away….
I imagined a forest…. In imagination every forest is beautiful. Trees stood silently on all sides, revealing themselves with perfect clarity, hiding nothing, pretending nothing, holding nothing back, standing undisguised in the full truth of themselves. I have long been enchanted by trees, and I often go in the early morning and just stand among them. They embody meditation and teach me how to do the same. I wish I were among them now, instead of struggling with this tormenting article….
I put it aside and my eyes rest on the floor. I am suddenly aware that it is a wooden floor, and has been lying here for more than a hundred years. It is a forest! Those boards are trees that grew year by year from saplings to their full stature. They experienced the changing of the seasons long before I was born. The story of those long-gone seasons is remembered in the grain…. Then I see the great mahogany table. It too is part of the forest. The grandfather clock… the bookshelves… the picture-frames…. I am in the middle of a forest! The books! The journals, the magazines…. Everything around me is forest. I don’t need to imagine a forest far away, this is a real forest, made of real wood – not thoughts or fantasies. I don’t need to go away, everything is here.
Is it even possible to go away? Yes it’s true that imagination can seem to take us far away, but we remain here all the while, dreaming. The only place that can be real for me is here. Everywhere I exist bodily is here. Here is the only place I get anything substantial. And everything I really need to live this very moment is already here. This awareness helps me to settle down when I sit in meditation.
What do I want to say now to that tortured philosopher? The mind can seem profound because it keeps forever digging. But very often it is digging up the secret roots of things. You need to live by your heart. It takes a heart to let things be, to love them and let them be. They are not instances of a thought, they are epiphanies of what lies too deep for lectures. Turn away. Give up searching for what is not lost. Roots are not for digging up but for sinking down into. Down into.