Sand Lilies and Excavators

I am walking in an undeveloped area near my home. Original nature is still evident here through stands of bunch grass and wildflowers, bitterbrush and sage, ponderosa pine and juniper. This spring, the sand lily (Leucocrinum montanum) is especially profuse, dotting the landscape with clusters of exquisite white stars cradled in nests of green basal rosettes. 

On the the other side of a high basalt outcrop rising above the abundant bloom of lilies, huge excavators are bulldozing the ground, lifting and dropping boulders into a rock crusher, and spreading the resulting aggregate to prepare a road bed. All manner of yellow earth movers move tons of earth and stone. I can feel the the vibrations through the soles of my feet and to the foot of my soul. I ache for the removal of natural landscape to make way for growing population and traffic.

But the lilies seem unfazed. They bloom where they are and will not whine when the earth movers move them or crush them into nothing. A bird or the wind has already carried seeds far beyond this place where they will propagate again if conditions allow. I can enjoy the lilies now knowing they are already gone. The ideals I hold in my mind are already crushed into a road bed. This is similar to the meditative practice of arising and dissolving.

In Dzogchen, we are instructed to accomplish the extraordinary preliminary practice of Ngöndro and then learn to separate samsara and nirvana—to intentionally surface concepts and see where they abide. When we recognize there is no foundation for concepts, they naturally liberate or dissolve. With practice, this becomes inseparable from moment to moment awareness. We do not make excuses for human insensitivity towards the land, but it allows us to viscerally feel the effects of samsara (cyclic existence) in our own mind. We become the sand lily and bitterbrush under the wheels of so-called progress.

When I am aware of the formation of solid concepts, I experience an inner excavator trying to control, to obstruct the view of my mind’s true nature. I may complain—but that only confirms the obstruction. When the mind rests upon the wind, there is nothing to excavate because nothing is obscured. I am free to float on a breath of compassion, to land anywhere and grow with adaptability and resilience. It is the nature of nature to reclaim us one way or another.