Personal Sacred Grounds
1-10-16, On an airplane.
You make time for a solo visit to your sacred ground.
The Boston Public Garden is spiritually comforting to me. It always has been. But this time I realized why.
I think of the 10 or 15 long late nights with the best of college age friends spent there; tripping, exploring, and communing with nature as urban Thoreau’s. One night, as we circled the duck pond as closely as possible, we saw something in the water. It was a school of what seemed like thousands of tiny fish, traveling together slowly, unified in motion. We guessed they were babies, spawned en masse within hours of our arrival, and learning to make their way in the world as we stood above them.
True or not, that explanation held. Probably because we were doing the same.
This past August I did the kind of self-analysis I had not been ready for in previous years. Hard core exploration of why I was unhappy, how those feelings were manifesting in damaging behaviors, and what could be done about it. I learned so much, at age 45. It’s always possible to better one’s self. Always.
What I divined deeply were my values. Inner Peace, Connection, Passion, Curiosity, Fun, Aesthetic Beauty; these are the bedrocks for a healthy Matthew.
I later added a physical one I feel deeply now, but wish I had decades earlier: Maintaining a Healthy Vessel. My body deserves love, attention, and respect, so it can help facilitate a long stay on the terrestrial plane. My son deserves my most rapt attention to this value.
So here’s what I realized. The reason those nights felt magical then, and seem to grow more resonant every year, is that those nights were spent chasing those same values. I didn’t realize it, mostly. I just knew I was on to something, and that an intellectual and/or emotional moment of perfect understanding felt achievable. I hunted those moments, and still do…when a lifetime of learning coalesces into what feels like grand clarity. Only an optimist believes those moments are right around the corner, as I do every day.
Those nights, we merry men were connecting so deeply. We were passionately following our curiosity around the city. We had uproarious fun. The Garden, along with the Esplanade along the Charles river, provided so much natural beauty. The early American architecture brought so much aesthetic pleasure, especially when juxtaposed with modern life.
And I did feel some peace then. The peace of friendly love, the peace of knowing I was in the right place. I was with my people.
I feel more peace now. I have defined how I attain it.
I am at peace when I am self aware, accepting what my issues are, and trying to lessen their damage. That’s it. That’s doable. I will not lie to myself any more. I accept who I am, admire my goodness, and gently acknowledge my weakness.
So there I was, for an hour alone in the Boston Public Garden. A monk approached me, slipped a green beaded bracelet on to my wrist, asked me to sign his contribution book, and said “Peace to you.” I happily gave him ten dollars.
I was mindful. Quiet. Thoughtful. And so grateful. I am alive at 45, vibrantly active in pursuits I love, financially solid thanks to those pursuits, and the father of a beautiful boy. Yes, I aspire to more wealth, achievement, knowledge, insight, and pleasure. But right now, right here, I am a happy man.
Whatever forces brought me here were with me in the Garden. And they know of my thanks.