Cold Clear Skies

Tonight I sat in a café facing a window. The lights inside rendered it near impossible to see out. I could only see a reflection on the window of myself and, more interestingly, a couple sitting at the table behind me. Though they sat across from each other, they did not look at each other. Both were apparently riveted by the tiny screens on their tiny phones. I watched them for a decent amount of time, waiting for them—either of them—to look up. Minutes passed. Five minutes. Ten minutes. It became laughable. Shocking. Sad.

I remember my Grandma telling me she didn’t like looking at the night sky. She contorted her whole face when she said, “I don’t like thinking about what’s out there.” I was just a kid, but recognized part of myself in that statement. If it scared her, it scared me too. I was never taught anything about the night sky. Couldn’t read star constellations or speak moon phases. Couldn’t find the Big Dipper. Never owned a telescope.

But last August, during my stay at Dhamma Patapa, I saw the Milky Way. Then, in September and October, I began to recognize phases of the moon. I’m pretty sure I just found Polaris on the drive home tonight and I’m totally asking my parents if I can get a telescope for Christmas. This affair with the night sky is unexpected, recent, and fresh. It all started in Georgia, where both the sky and my mind were open and clear.

Vipassana seems to create space between thoughts. And the more space there is between thoughts, the more likely I am to get lost in the beauty of what’s around—and above—me. I also know that the practice of observing breath and sensation without judgment teaches me to observe many things without judgment. And when judgment is suspended, curiosity and wonder seem to arise naturally.

I have heard that the best time to view the sky is during colder months. One reason is that cold air can’t hold as much moisture as warm air and moisture obscures our view of stars and other illumined bodies. Though fall and winter have always excited me, this promise of enlightened skies seals the deal. My practice is already getting more sincere. My vision, more clear.

I’d like to live with a deep curiosity, one that inspires me to get lost in things too vast to judge or ever fully understand: things like the bright stretch of sky on a dark night in Georgia, or the eyes of someone sitting across the table in a warm café.

I’d like to gaze at all things the way my Grandma has always gazed at me, with radical acceptance and relentless wonder.

In growth,

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