Wednesday, September 20th 2017

A Seattle lawyer’s medieval meditation

They say that St. Francis preached to the birds. Maybe it was the other way around . . .

BY DANIEL WOO — One fall in San Jose, California, when I was about 8 years old, a flock of birds flew into the bare limbs of the tree in our front yard. I ran under the tree to look in wonder at hundreds of birds just above me  —  only to be covered in a very short while from the top of my head to my toes with bird poop.

In early winter 2002, I walked in sub-freezing temperatures and gusty winds with my head up and eyes open after work in downtown Seattle, Washington, stepping carefully on salt-encrusted icy pavement.

Everyone else around me had their heads down.

At the intersection of 5th Ave., Stewart St. & Olive Way, I looked up at a giant sequoia that was lit up from large holiday lights burning brightly and noticed what turned out to be thousands of starlings flying into the tree.

I stood and watched an astounding number flying into this lit tree. I had no idea there were so many in Seattle and wondered at how they all knew where to huddle for warmth.

Other pedestrians flowed around me, not looking up. I pointed up for a few pedestrians who seemed not to notice.

I got lost in the endless stream of birds joining those already in the sequoia.

Walking to consciousness

Whenever I walk anywhere I practice seeing, hearing, smelling, sensing, and feeling awareness of what is around me. When I am not caught up in the 10,000 forms of self-absorption and thoughts, wondrous moments unfold in all directions.

Once in a while another human being drifts by, smiling.

I have since read something said by Shunryu Suzuki.

‎”A clinical psychiatrist questioned [Shunryu] Suzuki Roshi about consciousness.

‘I don’t know anything about consciousness,’ Suzuki said. ‘I just try to teach my students about how to hear the birds sing.’”

To Shine One Corner of the World – moments with Shunryu Suzuki (2002 Broadway Books).

Every moment is an opportunity to just hear, see, sense and become the “birds.”

Daniel D. Woo woke up to an understanding that suffering is not ended until view, intention and action are changed.  Dan practices law in Seattle, Washington.  You can reach him via Facebook or Linkedin.

Read Daniel’s previous articles for Soul’s Code: The heart whisperer and The best advice, ever, for those who have been abused.

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2 Comments on “A Seattle lawyer’s medieval meditation”

  1. I spend most of my time watching the birds, looking at trees, seeing the beauty in life -- how nice to meet a fellow traveller. The days we don't notice these tiny miracles are like being in prison. We have only to look up to escape it, as there is no lock on the door.

    Thank you, Daniel, for this lovely piece.

  2. Thank you Kat. Also thanks to Soul's Code for the new title and the reference to St. Francis. I often meditate outside when the weather permits and discovered that other sentient beings become curious and visit. Once when I meditated with two friends after playing pick-up soccer, I had closed my eyes when I felt a tongue licking my face - I opened my eyes to a beautiful husky looking at me. All creatures great and small are intrigued by silence.

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