In her poem “The Summer Day“, Mary Oliver asks the question: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Wild and precious. That life is…and it’s also messy and complicated and imperfect and heartbreakingly beautiful. The problem is, our minds get in the way. Our minds are a skewed and clouded lens, fogged by our past experiences, memories and all the stories we’ve created around who we are – our identities as human beings in this world, with our likes and dislikes, fears and hopes and notions about our capabilities and limitations. Our minds hold core beliefs about how loveable or worthy we are; constant anticipations of the worst possible outcome; and general dialogue rooted in guilt, shame and negativity.
From an evolutionary perspective, all of these stories, this internal mapping of reality, serve to protect us. Our minds record every trauma, lesson and message we receive (from our families of origin, religion, school, society, etc.) and construct a reality around these different guidelines, protocols and potential threats. This negativity bias is meant to keep us alive and safe.
But does it keep us WELL? How does all of this internal noise affect our mental health? It results in a lot of suffering. Our minds become a sort of prison, a place in which we’re trapped and held captive by suffering and fear. We lose our ability to see things clearly, with a fresh perspective. As children, we’re able to see life from a place of curiosity and openness and wonder. Buddhists talk about this state as “beginner’s mind”, and encourage cultivating such a perspective so that we can “see the miracle of a single flower clearly”, as the Buddha said. In doing so, “our whole life would change”.
If we can get out of our own way, and learn to live from a place of love, clairvoyance and true freedom, then we’ll be able to answer Ms. Oliver’s question. This is IT – your ONE WILD and PRECIOUS LIFE. It isn’t a dress rehearsal. It’s now, this moment, this day…so get out of your head, escape the prison of your mind and learn to truly SEE a flower. Or a sunset. Or the way a raindrop can rest perfectly on a leaf, round and whole. See that your ONE life truly IS wild and precious, and that it’s happening right now.