perspective from a canoe

dennis canoeone of the gifts i received while canoeing was a grace-filled acceptance of how very different our perspectives are.   what i would see as the obvious path to where we were headed was often not the same direct path seen by my partner from the front of the canoe.   what caused her to pause and circle back around in wonder, i would’ve paddled right by.   even while ostensibly viewing the ‘same’ thing, our perception of what that ‘thing’ was, or meant to us, seemed to be individual, based upon so many more layers than the ‘apparent’.

no wonder we get in trouble!

there was something about the slowed-down pace, which allowed for me such a graceful noticing.   aimlessness allowed me to let go of  the control, perhaps, which inhabits my days with its rightness and wrongness and tries to disguise itself as a surrogate for Love.   there was no ‘need’ to get from here to there and so there was space… for each of us to focus our eyes on what was most ‘needful’ .   what i ‘saw’ , and then deduced or intuited from that seeing, was not necessarily ‘obvious’ at all to the other, but rather a personal gift and graced interpretation.

oh, i have ‘known’ this for some time, on so many levels, many of them intellectual, some of them experiential, learned through the hard stuff of life—after having walked through a particular terrain that i had determined was dark/light only to see it as light/dark from the other side.   i sometimes have wondered about that yin/yang symbol, realizing somehow that what looks white or black depends upon where you are stand.   certainly, i have witnessed persons hearing something entirely different than me in a passage of verse or of music, a film, or a piece or art….all expressions, as is nature, of Beauty.

these have been part of a ‘whole-making’ for me but too often the learning involved the passage of time and/or healing.    to have noticed it embodied, ‘all-in-one moment’, was a powerful learning.   to feel kinesthetically the ‘all is well’ incarnate in my own body all-at-once, in the same way as i felt the concept of the ‘J-stroke’ when the paddle in the water and the canoe moved in response to my body’s movement, was to become at-one in some way.

perhaps it has something to do with developing binocular vision, the way it allows for depth perception of what previously had been a one-dimensional way of seeing.   we see through bigger eyes a world of both/and rather than either/or.   when we slip too far into one ‘either’ we get ‘off-center’ and move from a place of Love.   we may slide into fear, control, ego, and discontent on one side.    helplessness, apathy, incapacity, inadequacy, and unholy submission can creep in on the other.   on either side we forget that life (and ourselves and each other in the midst of it) is beautiful as it is, virtually glowing with abundance.

for me, welcoming prayer has become one of the most powerful tools I have found for moving into a deeper, more Loving place within myself.   in a new way, i was practicing welcoming prayer in that canoe.   noticing.  welcoming.   letting go.   the ‘noticing’ may have been my frustration or my joy, beauty or fatigue; the ‘welcoming’- my own perspective or the other’s;  the ‘letting go’- my need to be right or to be seen or heard or even to hold still and savor.   as a result, there was a sacred kind of embrace that i experienced slowly emanating from within.

in this unexpected practicum of prayer, i learned corporeally something real about embrace- this nonjudgmental acceptance, loving-what-is, release of control is not at all a clinging to or wrapping round or holding on as it is a Letting Be.    paradoxically, at the same time, the movement toward binocular vision opens one to a single, deeper vision of Love from a point somewhere beyond the ego.   it is not as if in opening to see through 2 sets of eyes, we see 2…we are somehow  deepened to see One.    certainly the process of loving another…lover, parent, child…is a lifelong realization of the same learning–embrace of the Other opens my heart to the One.

in the end, the welcome for all-that-is, which i seek to practice throughout my days here in this place, as there, changes not the other, changes not my environment, changes not the world, but it does change me.    suddenly, i perceive beauty all around me and  find myself  ‘in love’ with life again.

is it that i attract more beauty by moving into such a place in myself?  i don’t think so.   i think the beauty is always there.   i think it more likely that my own heart is changed so that i see through a different set of eyes.  (some folks think of this as the true meaning of the word repentance…this seeing through bigger eyes).   do i ‘attract’ more loving persons into my life…. or am I simply open to receiving them? ….or is this also a place of both/and?   does my own willingness to greet myself , to simply be where and who i am, allow me to receive the other?   does my desire to be with my own heart without judgment, create a safe place where the other can expose him/herself, and so create a sanctuary where union can create new life…as all unions between two lovers have the capability of doing here in this place?   perhaps ghandi was right… we need to Be the change.

as we canoed in to our little place of sanctuary at the beginning of our week ‘apart’, we prayed that we might approach the land with reverence and gratitude.   we prayed that we might enter with the intent to listen and not conquer.   we prayed that would be welcoming, knowing that we were being welcomed home somehow ….as we departed, we prayed for the same…with thanksgiving for what had been given, yes, with a sense of deep blessing and hope that we had blessed the same,  but as we turned our canoes toward home, we prayed that we would approach our ‘home lands’ with the same sense of reverence, of homecoming, of listening for and welcoming the sacred in our midst, of which we all are ‘a part’.

may it be so.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. emmaatlast
    Sep 26, 2009 @ 01:09:02

    dear beth,

    the thing is that when you are in the back of the canoe, you cannot help but see through the other’s eyes somewhat. it is not a ‘thinking’ thing so much as a feeling thing. as you begin, for instance, to gently steer the canoe toward a specific point on the horizon and your partner feels that direction differently than you, you ‘know’ on some level what they are seeing.

    paddling is a cooperative motion, somewhat like dancing, requiring 2 consciousnesses to work as one, to intuit and respond to one another.

    a simple look at your initial response to the word ‘prayer’ is a really good illustration of the very different meanings we can draw from the ‘apparent’ same thing ! 🙂 you ‘hear’ the word ‘prayer’ completely differently than i do, based upon your early personal experience with that ‘word’ and what you were taught about what it is. so we are not ‘seeing’ the same thing at all when we read the word.

    prayer for me is an ‘entering in and being with’ more deeply, more attentively, and more intentionally Love/God/Mystery/Beauty/Peace … whatever the name is that you give for the Source of Life that overflows into, dwells within, and embraces all. it draws me closer to what is, in a way, always closer to me than i am to myself, but which i can somehow imagine myself being distant from. it draws me into the heart of Love.

    all is well,



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