The Stoic philosopher and Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius once wrote,
It is in your power, whenever you choose, to retire into yourself. For nowhere either with more quiet or more freedom from trouble does a man retire than into his own soul
— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
This advice reminds me of one of the messages in the Bhagavad Gita, a two-thousand year-old Hindu text:
Wherever the mind wanders, restless and diffuse in its search for satisfaction without, lead it within, train it to rest in the Self. Abiding joy comes to those who still the mind.
— Vishnu, Bhagavad Gita
I’ve been trying to put this advice into practice. Walking down the street in the face of an icy winter wind, I make an effort to relax. Instead of fretting at subway delays, I imagine shifting my brain into neutral gear.
The other day, arriving at a restaurant a few minutes before my wife, I took a deep breath and put away my phone…
Continue reading “Tree Pose”
In his prime, John Burroughs (1837-1921) was one of the most popular writers in America, with a huge following of readers and relationships with the likes of Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and railroad tycoon E. F. Harriman. His passion was the birds, forests, rivers, and mountains of his native Catskills, and his writings reveal a scientist’s powers of observation and a nature-lover’s emotional connection to the land. In 1919, at age 82 he appeared in a short film, shown leading a trio of young children around his Catskill farm. He points out butterfly, chipmunk, grasshopper, and then the following words appear on the screen:
I am an old man now and have come to the summit of my years. But in my heart is the joy of youth for I have learned that the essentials of life are near at hand and happiness is his who but opens his eyes to the beauty which lies before him.
Today, these words are remembered by a dedicated group of Burroughs enthusiasts. But despite his enormous popularity, his hasn’t become a household name like other American naturalists such as Henry David Thoreau or John Muir. I wondered, why?
Continue reading “Accepting the Universe”