Oakwood Cemetery, Concord NC, USA
It is ironic for me as I consider that this place may have been instrumental in saving my life. Many years ago, during a particularly difficult time, I found myself spending quiet moments in a cemetery, a place that most people associate with death, in a time when life itself seemed almost pointless for me. It is perhaps cliché to say that I felt trapped in a rat race that I knew I was losing, but allowing time to slow down long enough to stroll along sun dappled byways made all the difference. Grave markers dating to the civil war watched from the sidelines beneath over arching branches of oaks whose first acorns might have felt the boots of soldiers of the American Revolution. Though the sound of auto traffic was there, it was birdsong that held my attention, and more often than not, a breeze had its refreshing way with me. In my lust to make a professional success of myself, I had abandoned the places that lent me solace as a boy….the forests, fields and streams that kept me on an even keel. There’s something about the trees that has a natural decelerating influence upon that frantic part of me that I had been stoking with gusto for too long in my urban existence. A calming resonance deep in me, drew my attention to this cemetery one day, and in my choice to acquiesce, a steady hand went to the brake of the runaway train of my life and gave pause to the business of busy-ness.
Is there some natural cadence reverberating within a stand of great trees that sets one’s breathing into a deep resonate rhythm? Looking back, I notice how not only my pace slowed but also my breathing – no longer shallow, but rather deep belly bulging breathing that eased the mind-static that wanted to slow burn an ulcer in my gut. I began to pay attention to the gentle beauty around me and to comment in my thinking upon what I saw and how it felt to choose ‘glass half full’ thinking for a change. I started to notice how my thinking made me feel and that I felt better as I practiced filling my view with things and ideas that I could be grateful for. Grave stones and green grass, wrought iron fencing and dogwoods in bloom had never moved me like this, because I had never noticed them in this new way – seeing value where I had not wanted to see it before. A walk in a cemetery had never filled me with peace like this….until now, until I could come to the place in me to choose to allow it. Once I arrived, once I was steeped in the feel of this inner space, I came to know the feel of something there as well, something in me that was a part of me and beyond, that had quite systematically guided me into this experience. Most of the way, I had no idea that I was choosing to live my life differently. The willingness to change was first motivated by the glint of new potential rising into my feeling awareness. I was like a prospector scuffing the surface of a lump of mud in his hand to see exposed the sheen of gold. I simply wanted it; I wanted to make this real, and it came and had its increasing way with me.