Sometimes, rather than practicing mindfulness, we engage in an exercise in focus. We are casting about the past and future rather than “living richly in the present” (Sylvia Plath).
I call such an exercise ponding. In nature, ponding is the pooling of unwanted waters. In being, ponding is the absence of mindfulness, the pooling of thought outside the present.
As Plath reminds us, to live richly in the present is the “hardest thing” to do.
It is a lifetime practice.
I grew up in a high plains desert where rivers rush, streams gush. Ponds are few. In the Rocky Mountain West, water is on the go, impermanence on the fly.
Now, my home is the meandering rivers and ponds of the Florida panhandle, subtropical lushness.
That both the West and South offer life opportunity opposites—mile high to sea level—once occupied much of my thought and time.
Then, it was location, location, location rather than living richly in my present. I spent years pooling unwanted waters for the future, trying to re-create past ponds.
It never works, even as an exercise.
This past week I found myself at Chapman, a pond I once visited daily as my life in the South began.
I missed the rush of water, having little consideration for the life that teems within a pond.
All that changed within the comfort of Chapman, contained under canopied, moss-draped oaks and towering Ponderosa pine. Daily, I focused on the peace I attributed to Chapman pond, unaware the peace was within me, always available.
Of course, I was ponding, unaware of my life as I was living it, pooling up thoughts, the unwanted waters of my past and future.
I was fishing, a practice I began in childhood.
Always, I searched any and all waters to see if they supported fish. I had to know if there was life. Fishing would occupy me for decades. I practiced consistently.
As I aged, casting a line with no hook replaced catching a fish. With each cast, I did my best to imitate a fly afloat to tease a fish.
Whenever I went fishing, I was living richly, completely confined to the cast of the moment.
Perhaps it was the beginning of a mindfulness practice; perhaps, it was just fishing.
I gained a sense of the tide of time, the fisher and the fished, impermanence at its best.
There was no ponding, no thoughts of bigger or lesser fish or even the one that got away—only, the energy of the experience, the sensation that never stays.
I have not owned a rod and reel in years but still I fish.
8 thoughts on “Ponding: Pooling of Unwanted Thoughts”
😉 living on a prairie taught me macrosystems. wow…
To experience mindfulness hang out with a five-year-old for whom each bug, each dimple on the water, each withered leaf is worthy of notice.
I do believe in reincarnation. Or perhaps I just hope for it. I am very fond of being alive.
Have you read Marilynne Robinson’s “Absence of Mind”? http://yalepress.yale.edu/book.asp?isbn=0300145187
Worth checking out, perhaps.
I have not but I just put it on “hold” at the library. Thank you for mentioning it as I am familiar with her novels but not this work. Also, just read your post on seeking. Clearly, it intrigues me as well. 😉 Thanks, Ann.
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such a beautiful place!
would be interesting
to only manifest
wanted thoughts 🙂
I wonder if it is possible to manifest a wanted thought. I agree, it is interesting to consider. Your thoughtful comment raised the question is any thought wanted? Perhaps if it does overstay its welcome. Your words have had me thinking for days, as usual. 🙂
sometimes my own mind seems to be not a pond but a cesspool. churning randomly, but often extruding memories of my own past regretful actions. I don’t believe in karma or reincarnation, but I will carry those bits of flotsam and filth in my cesspool forever.
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I think out of ponding the cesspool is created. I know that one of the reasons I was always drawn to the streams and rivers of the West was their movement. Yet, that, too, was a way to suppress, as if I could escape my past. Living here, it took me a while to understand the difference between life in a pond and ponding yet it is in the South that I appreciate the present. I think those bits of flotsam and jetsam of our past are part of our permanent Buddha nature; like you, I do not believe in karma or reincarnation. Thanks, Craig.
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