Simplicity in Complex Times

Simplicity in Complex Times

The mayor of San Diego, where I live, closed public beaches, parks and open spaces yesterday. Too many people, he noted, were not keeping safe social distancing. I get the logic, but I’m not sure that most people will honor the closings or how they’ll enforce it. While they can close parks they can’t close our attention nor nature.   

I’m blessed. We live on a canyon preserve and are surrounded by nature. Our natural world can be healing, soothing and instructive especially in times where we might feel disconnected from nearly everything. At least it is for me.   

Here’s an experiential slice.  

Yesterday was another long, challenging day. It was spent, like most of you, in front of a computer screen having virtual conversations with colleagues and clients, and doing deep work such as writing or strategy. After about 11 hours of deep work, I was fried. I stepped away to walk our dog Cocoa around the neighborhood, while I talked to my brother on the phone from across the country.

Then we, Cocoa and I walked out behind our house to the edge of the canyon on which we live. The sun was near-setting and it splayed a colorful array of brilliance across the horizon. I looked west into the bright sky a pair of hawks appeared at eye level catching the canyon rim up-drift. The pair encircled one another in a dance of flight and light. They spun ever closer to where I stood until I could see their brilliant markings in detail—red tails, golden wings, sharp claws, and piercing eyes. As I was standing high up on the canyon edge and they were in flight, I felt that I could reach out and touch their massively feathered wings, that had a translucent quality thanks to the low sun that shone through.

Just a few moments of being present with the simplicity of this beauty was enough to start cleansing a long day of good work.

Simplicity can be a sanctuary for action. It’s a place where new things have the opportunity to emerge and take flight because of the quietude. More than ever we are yearning for the simplicity, for normalcy, for commonality. Life-as-usual simplicity eludes us during extraordinary times. And, it’s during these times that we reach for this form of solid ground beneath us—something that feels stable, simple, solid.

These extraordinary times won’t last forever, but it’s unclear how long we’ll be in the land of the bizarre. So, while the extreme measures of this time may distance you and me from one another and the primal world from which we’re born, we don’t have to close our ability to be still in the presence of something that’s simple and beautiful. The sun, a smile of a loved one or stranger at a safe distance, a hawk pair, the bloom of flowers are all there to notice. These common gems have the power to cleanse and transform us.

What I’ve been treating myself to, in order to remedy these unusual times and the toll it takes, are extra helpings of meditation, servings of quietude, and some time among the wild things. All of this is simply to remind me of my connection to it all…including you.

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