Reflecting Reality

Mindful Reflection Tip #3

The meditative lifestyle isn’t just about the inner life; it’s also about reconnecting to the outer world: not just mindfulness but also reflection.

A few days ago Caroline and I were enjoying the warm sun of a late summer afternoon when she closed her eyes for a few moments to settle her mind. As they opened again she gasped quietly and whispered to me to turn my head. There in our backyard stood a magnificent heron — ramrod-straight and oozing untamed dignity.

Speaking of untamed, our garden is quite unlike our neighbors’ manicured patches. By late summer it teems with overgrown life; perhaps the heron deemed it some wild oasis in the monotonous suburbanscape.

Whatever its motives, it graced our afternoon. Its head turned to one side with an indifferent eye on us, the bird shocked the familiar from our eyes, returning us to the reality of where and how we lived: in a world that is not ours. For all our mastery of nature, our technological progress and environmental destruction, we’re just visitors with a brief lease on life, of no particular significance. Even our environmentalist instincts set us apart from nature for, let’s be honest, deep down we’re designed to care more about humanity than the planet.

Since childhood I’ve been urged to consider my mortality daily, the better to keep life and perspectives in order. With aging it grows easier to do, and harder to ignore. This brief meeting had a similar effect, bringing the ticking of life’s unstoppable clock to the fore and pushing my daily worries back to the farthest reaches of triviality.

Perhaps this is why we seek out intimate contact with nature. To feel once more naked, free and unbearably vulnerable — eventually to be recycled, though not just yet.


Author: Stephen Schettini

Host of The Naked Monk

6 thoughts on “Reflecting Reality”

  1. Hi Stephen and Caroline:

    If you know about “animal speaks” native indian philosphy of animal spirits and messages…
    the heron – if a heron appears in your life the message is about aggressive self determination and self reliance.
    Part of the message is…if a heron appears in your life it reflects a need for those with this totem to follow their own innate wisdom and path of self-determination. You know what is best for you and should follow it, rather than the promptings of others….the eyes will turn from yellowish to bright orange, ..Meditation on this color will provide a lot of insight as to its role in your life.
    Of course, I am writing what is written in the book.
    I am sure you know of it, but I thought in case you didn’t…it’s always right.
    The book…ANIMAL SPEAK…BY Ted Andrews.

    1. Sharon: I reckon everyone needs to follow their own innate wisdom and path of self-determination. As Steve Jobs said in his famous 2005 Commencement speech at Stanford University, “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.”

  2. When we are able to see things as they truly are without any filters, then we are truly seeing. What better way than nature ! It is awakening moments like this that remind us to listen with the ear of our heart and see with the eyes of our being.

  3. Where I grew up, herons are a pretty everyday sight. It always amuses me when people talk excitedly about seeing a heron; I never knew they were special! I don’t mean to say they are not special, of course, although they’re also not *not* special.

    How exciting to learn about a book of animal wisdom that’s “always right”. We can all use more books like that!

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