Stop … and Smell the Roses

rose garden_sIt’s a phrase we’ve all heard. A call to slow down, to be present, to show up, to be available to experience the moment.

In Wellspring, we are called to do this again and again by committing to a daily spiritual practice. For me this has been walking — the same path — every day — from my house in old Niskayuna to the Rose Garden in Central Park.

For a long time, walking has been my favorite way to exercise, to connect with nature, and to clear my mind. My walks are not leisurely, but brisk enough to build up a sweat and get my heart pumping. Thus begins my daily spiritual practice.

But when I get to the Rose Garden, everything changes. I slow my pace as I walk around the fountain in the middle of the park once, then again even slower, then a 3rd time slower still. I am aware of sweet and spicy fragrances, the sound of water cascading down the fountain, the hum of a bee, the laughter of a child at play. There is something sacred about this place that is so public, yet completely private to me. As I continue my walking meditation – heel-toe, heel-toe, heel-toe – my breath becomes slower and deeper.

In rare moments, I feel the rhythm of the earth and my mind gives way to sensation, harmony, equilibrium, spaciousness. This carpet of color becomes an oasis, a place for me to pause.

And more. It becomes my teacher. The roses– my companions — show me the beauty (ordinary and sure) of the full life cycle, from the perkiness of a new bud, to the amazing show of a full bloom, to the tired posture of an aging blossom. And then I see it, my lesson, in the wilted flower, the face of my mother, a face of grace, beauty and dignity, turning naturally back to the earth. And since my relationship with my mom has not been without its share of thorns, this is a healing moment, and one that helps me more fully embrace my own aging body. The rose teaches me compassion.

Through Wellspring, I have learned that unexpected truths reveal themselves as a result of disciplined spiritual practice — lessons running deep and unseen, like the roots of a tree that stretch underground well beyond the tree’s canopy. I imagine that if I walk long enough, I’ll walk myself all the way back to myself.

Rosemary Bishop is a member of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Schenectady, NY. She wrote this piece for her congregation’s Wellspring service in July 2015.


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