Autumn rain—
among the marigolds
a rusty key

A darker time is coming. Autumn rain is always more serious than spring rain, somehow more ominous. Things have been dying off for a while now. Yet even in this cooler, darker time the last of the marigolds are holding on to their rust-colored blooms. As rusty as…what? This old key in among the fading flowers. It is a surprise, a bit of a mystery. Whose key is it, and for what use?

The insights that arise in the course of meditating are often surprises. The awakening mind lets go of the old fictions we invent and opens to what is really here: simply this. But this is a process, and sometimes, as we let things be rather than trying to manipulate or control or interpret, a mystery arises. We experience the mystery—it can be both delicious and unsettling. So we note the experience and then focus again on each breath. Meditation teaches us to expect nothing; everything will be opened to us.

Sparrow chirping
this winter morning
its white breath

Look up at that frozen branch on this icy morning. On it is a sparrow with its feathers all puffed up, fluffing the air between the feathers to protect itself against the cold. The little bird’s breath is visible—just a puff of whiteness. What joy there is in it! This sign of life on a dark, cold morning takes our own breath away.

As our awareness deepens with practice, we find our breath being taken away more and more by the ordinary experiences all around us and within us. Nothing special—just a tiny life expressing itself—singing!—in Winter’s frozen world.

Snowdrifts getting deeper
what do they mean—
my dreams

A serious snowstorm. We are snowed in. As the snow gets heavier, it weighs down the shrubs, and the trees become ghostlike figures. Everything, coated like this, becomes strange, shrouded, just as our dreams, when we try to recall them during the day, are strange—weighed down with layers of meaning, holding secrets within.

There is such a dreamlike quality to snow as it falls heavily and piles up, transforming our regular world into an uncanny landscape. Sitting here, watching it, one feels the urge to remember what is underneath, just as when waking from a dream.

Sometimes it isn’t easy to see into what is there in front of us. We know that our dreams are just ways we have of telling ourselves about ourselves when we are asleep, and yet we have learned to keep from ourselves so much of who we fully, truly are that our dreams seem strange. Amazing, isn’t it? What we tell ourselves about ourselves must be told with so much secrecy and arcane symbolism that we can’t remember it, and if we can, we can’t understand it. At such moments our inner world seems shrouded, muted, alienated, as the natural world seems when it is covered with snow.

Isn’t it sad to realize that we have learned not to accept who we fully are? And isn’t it wonderful to remember that gradually, with courage, we can come to accept and include even what at first had appeared so strange, so horrible, so not-me in our dreams?

Can we be resolute about facing, with bare attention, the reality of things I Even when we discover that the old, narrow myth of who we are no longer holds, and the emerging, fuller person is so unexpected?

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