“And I have often noticed that even a few minutes of this self-forgetfulness is tremendously invigorating. I wonder if we do not waste most of our energy just by spending every waking minute saying hello to ourselves. Martin Buber quotes an old Hasid master who said, “When you walk across the fields with your mind pure and holy, then from all the stones, and all growing things, and all animals, the sparks of their soul come out and cling to you, and then they are purified and become a holy fire in you.” — Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Walking about the garden upon a return from two weeks in Europe, seeing the progress of some plants and the decline of others from neglect, it’s easy to become lost in self-forgetfulness. Minor tasks become meditative when we focus on the work. So it is with hiking in solitude, where every step matters and the mind is forced to quiet itself that you may land properly to take the next one.
If the aim is to become more open to the spirit of the world around us, surely we must quiet the chatter in our own heads. Be still, learn to listen, observe and receive the energy that might otherwise bounce off our closed mind to find a more willing recipient. What do we lose in our closed-minded self-conversation but our chance to be one with the universe?
The thing is, most of our self-talk is useless at best and detrimental to our progress at worst. Our Lizard Brain, as Seth Godin calls it, is our worst enemy, making us feel like we aren’t measuring up, that we should have done things differently, that we don’t deserve the moment we’re in now. It’s all crap, and not what we’d expect in a close friend. But who is closer to us than ourselves?
This Hasidic concept of receptiveness is one way to push aside the self. If we are to become a holy fire today—and in our stack of days, we must tune our receiver and accept the positive fuel that stokes our furnace. We must throw aside the wet blanket of self and accept the world as it offers itself to us.