Happy Where You Are

The Arroyo – Fields of flowers

Some mornings I go for a bike ride (now that we are allowed to), and come back and draw what I’ve seen with my kid’s art supplies. Spring is incredible this year, with all the downpours we’ve had, alternating with warm sun.

I’m reading (along with Indian novels by R.K. Narayan, more on that another day…) Be Free Where You Are, by Thich Nhat Hanh, which is basically the text of a talk he gave to inmates at the Maryland Correctional Institution at Hagerstown in 1999. His simple approach to freedom and happiness wherever you are, and whatever your circumstances, is perfect reading during our recent, and currently continuing, confinement. But it applies to all life of course, all moments, all places.

Here’s a quote, followed by another I found in Thoreau’s Walden that expresses just about the same sentiment (I love finding overlapping ideas like this):

“This morning when I stepped into the prison compound, I walked very mindfully. I noticed that the quality of the air was exactly like the quality of the air outside. When I looked at the sky, I saw that it was exactly the same as the sky outside. When I looked at the grass and the flowers, they too looked the same as the grass and flowers outside. Each step I took brought me the same kind of solidity and freedom that I experienced outside. So there is nothing that can prevent us from practicing [mindfulness, happiness] successfully and bringing freedom and solidity to ourselves.” – Thich Nhat Hanh, Be Free Where You Are

“You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poor-house. The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the alms-house as brightly as from the rich man’s abode; the snow melts before its door as early in the spring. I do not see but a quiet mind may live as contentedly there, and have as cheering thoughts, as in a palace.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden; Or, Life in the woods.

I could read and quote and write about Thoreau and Thich Nhat Hanh for days on end, I love, respect and need people who say ‘look, no matter where you are, or what’s going on, in this very present moment there are reasons to see that life is still incredible, beautiful, wondrous, and you can still feel free and in peace inside’.

Swallows over the Arroyo
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