Last week I felt fortunate to have a little revelation (unexpected, as the good ones always are) as I ate breakfast in my favorite spot, on the living room floor, inches away from the window that frames our backyard.
The window was open and morning sunlight illuminated a spiderweb connecting windowsill to glass. The twinkling threads immediately caught my eye, and I paused, transfixed by the intricacy of a little creature’s night’s work. Minutes passed, I’m sure, as I stared in a groggy daze, curious as to whether the spider would make an appearance, and marveling at how different my favorite spot felt before 7am.
And then, just as a camera shifts its area of focus, my eyes adjusted and suddenly there was no web. I saw through and now there was only backyard. The magnanimous palm tree that has yet to be named, who stands watch and greets me each day after morning meditations and who cradles pigeons with her branches. There was the soil and then there was sky. Blue, quiet, August sky. And my eyes leapt from web to sky, web to sky, foreground to background, a slight shift in focus.
This, I thought, is perspective. It was fully clear to me that this is what I do, this is what we do. We see web and no sky. Web’s intricate structures and patterns, and then the thought: when will the spider arrive, and when it does will I jump?
Pema Chodren, my literary best friend, proposes that when we get worked up, to look at the sky. She says, “Taking a moment to look at the sky or taking a few seconds to abide with the fluid energy of life can give us a bigger perspective – that the universe is vast, that we are a tiny dot in space, that endless, beginningless space is always available to us.”
I have enjoyed making this a practice. Riding my bike, mind furiously composing till-death-do-we-part to-do lists, and “what did she think when I said that, and when will I no longer be anxious, and when will life be easier, and when will I arrive at how I should be to be worthy of a life that is better than the one here and now?”
And then, that subtle shift of the eye. Blue, quiet sky. Thought was like a spiderweb, so tangled and yet transparent and instantly dissolved by relaxing into a bigger perspective.
My most comforting discovery has been that sky is always here. Space is always available, fills us and surrounds us and is vast enough to hold all circumstances, all feelings. It is present whether we feel it or not, whether we are embroiled in foreground (content and constructs) or background – “that endless, beginningless space” that is the reason we practice.