Worker Bees

I wonder if you can pause
—just for one minute—
the emergency of your life
and step out
into the quiet of the world.
Hear how gently it conveys
the delicate thread of birdsong,
how quickly it can swallow
the intrusion of a passing jet.
Feel its vast, smiling invitation
to rest back into
the person you’ve been
all your life. Listen now—
the cherry tree spreading
out over the sidewalk
is electric with bees.
Look how they bury their bodies
in flower after flower after flower,
drunk on their longing for the world.
What sociopath looked at this
and called it work?

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The other day I went for a quick afternoon walk. (Or a “stupid little walk” as my wife and I call it, thanks to this tweet.)

I work from home and spend most of every day staring at a computer screen. So it’s important to get out and move my body and be surrounded by the life-size world every now and then.

But this time something was different.

It was quiet.

Not eerily quiet. There were still birds calling and the rush of cars passing and the sound of wind in the trees. But there was a deep quietness behind all that.

When I told my coach about it later he called it a “window experience.” But it took another coaching session or two before I was able to name what it was a window to.

What I noticed is that I live most of my life swinging between two opposite states: Emergency and Tuned-Out.

My default state is emergency, where I feel like my survival is on the line (or at least some helpful stand-in for my survival like my livelihood, reputation, etc). Which is exhausting. So to escape from that I tune completely out from my life, my emotions, everything—usually with television and a drink.

What I noticed when I named these opposing states is the wide space between them.

It’s a space that I’ve named Attentive Rest. Which isn’t different from mindfulness or contemplation or being fully present. Those are just the words that brought it alive for me.

That’s what the quiet of the world was inviting me into on my stupid little walk that day. And it’s what I hope this poem helps invite you into, in your own way, with whatever words or wordlessness that brings it alive for you.

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