Mindfulness Meditation

Thoreau, June 22, 1851

I was pondering what to write about next for my website when I picked up my copy of I to Myself: An annotated selection from the journal of Henry D. Thoreau, edited by Jeffrey S. Cramer.  I’ve been reading a few weeks of Thoreau’s journal at at time lately.  Today I opened to Thoreau’s entry on June 22, 1851 and found my next publication.  This is word for word from Thoreau’s journal; I hope you find it as enriching as I did.

“We are enabled to criticise others only when we are different from, and in a given particular superior to, them ourselves. By our aloofness from men and their affairs we are enabled to overlook and criticise them. There are but few men who stand on the hills by the roadside. I am sane only when I have risen above my common sense, when I do not take the foolish view of things which is commonly taken, when I do not live for the low ends for which men commonly live. Wisdom is not common. To what purpose have I senses, if I am thus absorbed in affairs? My pulse must beat with Nature. After a hard day’s work without a thought, turning my very brain into a mere tool, only in the quiet of evening do I so far recover my senses as to hear the cricket, which in fact has been chirping all day. In my better hours I am conscious of the influx of a serene and unquestionable wisdom which partly unfits, and if I yielded to it more rememberingly would wholly unfit me, for what is called the active business of life, for that furnishes nothing on which the eye of reason can rest. What is that other kind of life to which I am thus continually allured? which alone I love? Is it a life for this world? Can a man feed and clothe himself gloriously who keeps only the truth steadily before him? who calls in no evil to his aid? Are there duties which necessarily interfere with the serene perception of truth? Are our serene moments mere foretastes of heaven,—joys gratuitously vouchsafed to us as a consolation,—or simply a transient realization of what might be the whole tenor of our lives?

To be calm, to be serene! There is the calmness of the lake when there is not a breath of wind; there is the calmness of a stagnant ditch. So is it with us. Sometimes we are clarified and calmed healthily, as we never were before in our lives, not by an opiate, but by some unconscious obedience to the all-just laws, so that we become like a still lake of purest crystal and without an effort our depths are revealed to ourselves. All the world goes by us and is reflected in our deeps. Such clarity! obtained by such pure means! by simple living, by honesty of purpose. We live and rejoice. I awoke into a music which no one about me heard. Whom shall I thank for it? The luxury of wisdom! the luxury of virtue! Are there any intemperate in these things? I feel my Maker blessing me. To the sane man the world is a musical instrument. The very touch affords an exquisite pleasure.”

This is worth reading and reading again. His mind is sauntering, a way of being in the world that Thoreau particularly valued. He starts by noting that the tendency to “criticise” emerges “by our aloofness from men and their affairs” which culminates in being “enabled to overlook and criticise them,” hardly a generous way of being. He meanders through ideas and observations, and finishes with “I feel my Maker blessing me.”

I have chosen this year to live intentionally in a Thoreauvian way. Once again he teaches us how to live and live well.

PS While traipsing around White Clay Creek State Park today I came upon Snowbells in full glory! Nature.

By Jim Walsh

I am a Pastoral Counselor in private practice in Wilmington DE. I teach Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction as part of my work as a therapist.

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