We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Saturday, July 14, 2012

North Woods Meditation

The common loon (Gavia Gaviidae Gaviiformes)
Two or three mornings a week, weather and life in general permitting, my wife, Runee, and I get up early and spend an hour to two hours or more canoeing on Beaver Lake, which is about a 30 minute drive east and north from Lowville.  From east to west, the lake is about a mile wide and it is roughly the same north to south.  The Beaver River flows into the lake on the east and out of the lake on the north.  One can paddle down river for something under two miles but upriver only less than half of a mile.  There are dams both east and north.  There are at least 40 cabins, probably more, and two church camps located along the lake and down the river, although there are portions of the shoreline that are truly wild.  There is also a creek that flows into the river beyond the north end of the lake, which you can get a canoe up for a half-mile or so.

Beaver Lake is a northern lake.  It has loons, as any self-respecting north woods lake does.  In the morning, before the local folks get too active and the big boats come out, a humble canoe owns the water.  It is usually calm.  The breeze is generally gentle.  And occasionally we see wildlife, mostly birds.  Maybe one time in five, a loon will call.

There is a spiritual quality in these times on the water.  And it's not just in the forest or in the presence of the water.  That quality is embedded in the act of sitting in and paddling the canoe itself.  We use an old beat up 17 foot  Grumman, a beast on land and a queen on the water.  Canoes are about balance and timing.  They are about two people sharing the load, pulling together in a single rhythm.  In the stillness of the morning, the canoe runs silent and responds quickly to the gentlest turn of the paddle.  One sits still, centered in the canoe, and concentrating on the rhythms of paddle.  The shore glides by, always and never the same.  The quiet seeps in, and for long minutes there are no mechanical noises—especially none of the whirring and buzzing of the typical house at all hours.  Silence.  Balance.  Concentration.  A sense of the sameness & uniqueness of each moment.  All shared.  One rests in the moment and for the moment.  And that is precisely what eastern meditation and western prayer disciplines are intended to inspire—silence, balance, mindfulness, insight, and profound stillness.

Allow me to bring this posting to a close.  We are headed for the lake again this morning.