I have found, at times of heightened perception…that it is not hard to fall in love several times a day; that is, to keep finding myself deeply moved not only by the people around me, but also by the landscape, the sounds of the forest, the moon at night, or the changing patterns of wind, light, clouds and rain. Although this vividness of perception may seem special, it is also quite ordinary. If it be magic, it is ordinary magic, because it is only a keener awareness of what is already there. Though we cannot hold on to such moments, they leave us with a sense of what life could be like if we could live more often at this threshold of vivid presence. – John Welwood
I can pull out specific, detailed memories of moments in my life when I experienced this type of aliveness. One comes to mind when I was researching the Yurok Tribe of Northern California, along the Klamath River, for an article about the research surrounding the Great Northern Spotted Owl. My dear friend Erik was tracking the number of a soon-to-be endangered species of owls with a Native American woman as part of their research project. He had written me a letter while we were both away at college, detailing the U.S. Forestry project he worked on.
I was fascinated with their project and how they stalked the night forest hooting for the owls, with hopes of tagging and counting each remaining bird of the species living in their territory. What really peaked my interest, was his work partner, Susan, a member of the Yurok Tribe, who believed that the owls, as per Native American tales, represented evil spirits, so she would need to perform a Native American ritual, to include burning sage, prior to their venturing out into the woods each night armed with the live mice slated to lure in the spotted owls.
Coinciding with their research, I was enrolled in a magazine writing course at my university. One of my favorite professors of all time, Bonnie Henderson, who was a regular travel writer for Sunset magazine, announced award funding grants to travel to research a magazine article that we would later consider submitting. I applied for the travel stipend and was granted the award. I was then invited to join in my friend's owl expedition and was primed for an adventure. The timing could not have been more ideal.
The road trip was planned, permission was granted to join my friend and his work parnter and we were going to be treated to a visit to the Native American Yurok tribe's sacred grounds.
To purify our minds and open our eyes, our guide burned sage and juniper root. We carefully treaded through an area of a forest that was alive with life. We were instructed not to touch or move anything. We observed rocks that had been carefully placed in reference to guides and sat beside the most amazing river bed flanked with gorgeous eroded river rock. As we sat, perfectly silent, the world around us came to life. The sounds of a babbling brook quickly gave way to the birds chattering above and the frogs surrounding us. Then, a river otter emerged from the waters. Everything seemed to glisten and shimmer with life.
I had never been so aware of my surroundings and so filled with awe and amazement for nature at work, as I did that day. I fell in love with all of it. The raw, untouched environment that may have passed before me filled my heart with a deep passion never experienced prior. The dirt mountain path led me to a new awareness.
I love the concept of 'having a keener awareness for what is already there'. Doesn't that make sense? Can you imagine what it would be like if we could "live more often at this threshold of vivid presence"?
“People who are fully alive have an expanded capacity for pleasure, a feeling that life is flowing and they are flowing with it. They recognize that happiness is a choice. They focus on what they like, not on what they don’t like. They are willing to experience pain, for they know that if the body shuts down to close off painful feelings, then pleasurable feelings will be closed off as well, and they want, above all, to experience their life, not simply to live it by rote.” – The 8 Essential Traits of Couples Who Thrive by Susan Page
May we go out into today with a keener awareness of what is already out there and be moved by heightened perception causing us to fall in love with the world around us.