I have studied human behavior and that has provided me with certain gifts. I can listen to someone talk and I hear their past, their present, and their future. Everything they say, what they don’t say, how they hold their body, their expressions, and their eyes all leave markers or ripples. It is the language I am most used to speaking.
I am less comfortable, or proficient, in reading the language of the outer nature. I know of people who can predict the weather, track the prints of an animal, and who know many things about the natural habitat that surrounds them. These are languages that are quieter in the city. There are people who can find morels in the woods by our house, and those who can forage for food. There are people who know the temperament of trees. I, however, am not yet one of those people.
I moved to Costa Rica in order to expand my language skills. Spanish, yes, but also the language of a place dripping in nature. I felt that in the life I was living before, I could do anything I wanted, whenever I wanted, despite nature. It was not necessary to learn the language of the natural world – this earth – because I had a temperature controlled house, a car that could take me wherever I wished to go, and consistent and reliable utilities. I know I was becoming more and more closed off – more and more separated from the Garden.
As I write this, I am seeing the various layers of this separation. In Christian mythology, Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden. This is a cultural mythology that I as a Western hold. This myth is buried deep within me. As a byproduct of this myth, I am always trying to get back in good graces with nature; or perhaps maybe it is better said that I feel rooted in a sense of opposition to nature. In the past, I have always tried to not let nature affect me. When I was cold, I would turn up the heat; when it rained, I would stay inside.
When I was in Chile a couple years ago, I observed an elder Shaman who, as we hiked, offered her blessings and gratitude to the water of a stream or creek every time we passed one by. Every time she saw water, she felt gratitude. In my busy life in the States, I felt gratitude when I was out in “big” nature, but on a daily basis, I didn’t feel it; I wondered what example I was setting for my kids by way of this. After all, our children will most in charge of saving the environment.
In other traditions, people were not kicked out of the garden but were designated as keepers of the garden;others as co-creators in the garden. I came to Costa Rica so I could finally expunge the cultural myth that I don’t belong in this natural world – within this garden. I believe deeply within myself that I am a co-creator – that everything is interdependent. Everything is connected, and if everything is connected then I am constantly affecting nature and I am constantly being affected by nature. Without shadow of a doubt then, I belong.
This morning at the beach I was watching the sun rise and the dance of the hermit crabs. I was aware of my every step. As I walked gently, the vibration of my footsteps caused the little creatures to retreat into their shells. My movement directly affected their lives. When I sat down on the beach, and as I quieted my body, they would all once again start their roaming for food. It was displayed so clearly in this small moment just how linked our lives really are, though I know that I lose this sense in my day to day life. I am not always aware of the ripples that I cause, or how I experience the ripples when I feel them from the outside. When I drop a piece of food from my breakfast on the deck, ants will come and devour it. They move in response to me, and I move in response to them. My question is always how do I take this medicine of the moment and integrate it into my life. How do I share it’s teachings with those around me? Most importantly, how can I myself remember this medicine? I forget it so easily.
A simple question to the kids about whether or not they have homework sends ripples. If my intention is for them to be responsible, self motivated children, does asking them that question create the ripple I intended or does it create a ripple I did not intend? The path of impeccability, the path of deliberate attention, is developing the awareness to read the ripples. It is choosing to be a source of light that creates ripples. A simple question can potentially undermine their process of self exploration and self initiation. For my son, he takes a question as a reminder. He drops what he is doing and he goes and does his homework. I think the ripple is that he is not learning to remember for himself or that he has not developed the skill of managing his own time. For my daughter, it is a place of differentiation. If I withheld asking the question, she might have started her homework momentarily because it was a good time for her; however with her, the ripple pushes her to differentiate herself from me, and she does not do her homework. Ah, the power of a question. When I am honest with myself, I am only asking the question for myself – to plan the rest of the day, to know what to expect, to assuage my self-judgments about my parenting style. The question is for me and not for them. They are old enough now to take care of these things themselves. However, asking the question at this point, selfishly for myself, has the potential of creating ripples that go completely against what I am striving for every day with my kids.
All of this reminds me that ripples are ever-present, and that the Garden is our teacher, if only we are inclined to listen.