Teachers come in all shapes and sizes. Yesterday morning my teacher came in the form of a leaf blowing across the top of an open expanse of the fluffy new snow in the park. Who knew?
For some time now I’ve been doing my morning practice out in the park. See when I got home from Ireland I was sad that I would no longer feel as connected to the earth and the heavens as I did while I was on vacation. Solution? Open my damn eyes!
I have a beautiful park right off my backyard. It backs up to the north branch trail of the Chicago river. There are bird sanctuaries mixed in throughout the park. There are beautiful, old oak and maple trees in the park. It’s not like you have to be at the Giant’s Causeway or the Wicklow Mountains everyday of your life just to get a little nature fix on, right? I’m really proud of myself because I haven’t let the elements slow me down either. When it’s rained I’ve put on foul weather gear. As the temperatures dropped I added more layers. When it snowed I put on my boots instead of my tennis shoes. There is always a possibility, right?
Well there’s a much longer story to be told about my workouts in the park behind our little two-flat, but for now suffice it to say that it’s been a six-days-a-week on the average ritual for a little over three months.
Yesterday morning I was really distracted. I wear my headphones and listen to the music of the mood in the moment while I’m in the park. From the very start yesterday I couldn’t figure out what sort of mood I was in and I changed my music a few times which almost never happens. It was such a beautiful morning. A few inches of fresh fluffy snow had dusted the entire scene. All of my favorite trees had snow covered arms. The night before my wife Christiana had sung a song at karaoke from the movie Frozen and I felt like I had just been lucky enough to step into the set of Frozen 2. It was magical. Except for the fact that I couldn’t focus.
I jumped back and forth from cardio-exercises to sun salutations to kata. Nothing seemed to fit. Then I looked out across the park and saw a single, brown leaf blowing across the top of the fluffy new snow like an angel flying just above the earth, touching down and dragging her feet every once in a while. Over the last few months I’ve seen thousands if not even a million leaves in this park. But this one was different. When the leaf stopped moving a few feet away from me, I walked over, reached down and picked it up. I raised the leaf up above my head and noticed the tiniest of little holes right in the center of the leaf along the main spine. If the leaf were a person you might say the hole was exactly where the heart chakra would be.
As I looked through at the leaf I noticed I could sort of see through the little hole, but I needed to bring it closer to my face to refine the focus. I pulled the leaf right up to the edge of the lashes of my right eye and looked into the sky. You know what I saw? A patch of blue. You see on this morning the entire sky was covered in winter grey clouds, except for that one little exact spot that I happened to see through the tiniest of holes in the only leaf that was blowing across the top of the fluffy new snow in the park behind my two-flat. What are the odds of that? As I like to say in moments like this…100%!!!
So I refined my focus. I stopped looking around at everything in the entire park that was distracting me yesterday morning and I picked one kata. It is the most basic kata that we learn in karate. And then I did it over and over and over again until I was dripping in sweat under my heavy coat. And then I was done for the morning. The lesson had been learned. That kata became the patch of blue sky in the otherwise grey and confusing morning. See my teacher yesterday morning appeared in the most unique way. A little lesson from my friend Mr. Miyagi Leaf taught me everything I needed to know in that moment in time.
Later that night I hung up a new piece of framed art that Christiana’s parents gave us on her birthday. They had the same one in their kitchen and we liked it over the holidays so they gave us one for Christiana’s birthday last week. It simply says, “There is always always always somehing to be THANKFUL for”.
Even later that night Christiana came home from work and asked me how my day had gone. I told her I made a new friend. She asked me who my new friend was and I told her it was a leaf! I then went to the dining room table and held up the leaf that I found in the park and showed her the hole in the middle right were the heart chakra would be. She smiled at me and said, “You’re ridiculous! And I love you!”
Like the sign says, “There is always always always somehing to be THANKFUL for”.
Today I am thankful for having nature at my fingertips at a moments notice, for the warm clothes I have access to so I can go out in the park and enjoy. I’m thankful for the two legs that carry me out there and allow my to jump for joy. But today I’m mostly thankful for a wife that loves me even when I silly. And I’m really thankful for my new friend Mr. Leaf!
How lucky am I?