On a cool, sunny June afternoon I started one of my frequent hikes at Radnor Lake. There’s a steep paved road just past the parking lot that leads to the lake. In one area, damaged by a major flood, the road is all gravel and a bit bumpy to traverse. As I approached the graveled area, I saw a young man in a wheelchair suddenly grab his wheels and try to turn back toward the parking lot. He protested loudly about riding over the gravel and appeared quite frightened. One of his companions calmly encouraged him not to be afraid, reminding him that the lake was just past the gravel so he needed to go through it to enjoy the scenery. This seemed to calm him down a bit and he let go of his efforts to escape the gravel. At that point he had already ridden halfway through anyway, so either going or returning meant equal contact with the gravel.
As I walked past, he appeared more relaxed as one of his companions moved him forward in the chair. Suddenly he opened his mouth and allowed the sound of his voice to reflect the bumpiness of the gravel. It was as if his whole body had become one with the gravel, completely connected with the experience of going over the rocks. I realized he was giving a wonderful dharma talk – directly reflecting how he had let go of aversion and was allowing himself to experience the moment fully. There was no fear in his voice, just a manifestation of the moment’s bumpiness.
I smiled as a deep gratitude arose in my heart for the inherent wisdom we can all access through the simple, yet often challenging act of letting go. This young man was intellectually disabled in a way that kept him from communicating as freely and easily as most of us. Yet in facing his fear and releasing his efforts to escape the gravel, he relaxed into the moment and allowed the bumpiness to penetrate his whole body. Soon he was back on the smooth pavement and had the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful lake just ahead.
May we all find the wisdom to let our whole hearts and bodies meet the gravel when it comes and to enjoy the serene, deep lake that follows.
by Lisa Ernst