The end of 2016 has been difficult. There is so much uncertainty taking place all around me. I have a pinched nerve in my right arm. I do my best to keep body and mind together and to help those around me. I am fortunate to be grounded in the deep currents of Zen. Being still and allowing silence to guide me helps enormously. But that doesn't prevent the ground from shifting and moving beneath me.
So I was surprised when I heard the sound, like large pigeons; a guttural squawking. I've heard this sound before. Each year when I'm out walking, first I hear them. Then I look up and scan the sky until I see them. Magnificent. Ungainly in their flight. They are sandhill cranes. Hundreds and hundreds of them flying south for the winter. They're not as organized as the geese. They fly in loose triangular formations. As they fly, a group breaks off going a different direction and then the whole formation dissolves and breaks up. They begin circling and then magically, majestically chart a new course and are off again.
Perhaps we could learn something from these awkward prehistoric-looking birds. Could we roll with the changes like them? Could we be more nimble on our feet and not grip too tightly to the presuppositions we use to make life seem more predictable?
This is not a time for certainty. That effort will not serve you well. The ground beneath us will continue to shift and slide. And the question facing me, facing you, is will we be able to turn on a dime when we need to. Otherwise, we may lose our way, holding too tightly to something which no longer guides and shows us the path forward. The path is where you are standing. But don't assume it will be straight. The chaos will not let up so get used to falling off the path, getting back on it, and finding your way home.
Roshi Robert Althouse