The Gentler Paths



Russ Njust



    This day, I am feeling quite open and vulnerable, and Spirit wants to touch something in me with a gentleness that always means that I must let go of something painful and dear. Painful and dear like an old pair of favorite shoes with gaping holes in the soles. My expectations and agendas are like these old shoes. They are so comfortable to walk around in, but they are exposing my feet to the hard ground and jagged stones of reality. Spirit says to take them off and gently lay them to rest. In my bare feet I walk on, much more aware of the surface, treading softly upon the breast of Sacred Mother. My feet are free, but I miss my old shoes.


    The gentleness of letting go seems all but lost to the majority of us in the modern world. Letting go, like the autumn leaves before a gust of wind or the mist before the morning rays. Letting go, like gazing into a night sky and accepting that you just don’t know. I am examining myself daily, to see if the anticipation of change awakens my trusting heart or if I shall run to hide within the shadows of my fears. I do both quite well, although not always at the right times. 


    But it’s getting easier to recognize my agendas. I look at an issue, and simply follow it back to its source. It always comes back to my perceptions, every time. Maybe I thought the problem was one of my ex-wives or the new love in my life, or my kids’ teacher or the new government that was causing the problem. Maybe I thought it was something they said or did. But as I listen to my heart I become aware it was how I received what they said or did…what judgment I placed on the ones that seemed to be perpetrating my pain.


    And so I realize that in reality I am judging myself. Then it hurts, oh God it hurts, and Spirit gently nudges me, reminding me to smile at the games we play. Spirit says we are children dancing within a circle of sacred fire. The greater the light, the deeper the shadow – that’s how we see a difference, in the spaces where we dance. And so we dance with life in the spaces between the light and shadow.


    Once again in my life, I have fallen into shadow. I really should know by now, that there will always be a shadow following the light of my expectations. This knowledge doesn’t seem to help my inner child, Little Feet. He is hurting and afraid, clinging to my leg, and hiding his face to conceal his tears. I can’t give him my strength, for I too am deeply wounded and vulnerable.


    I call on Grandfather, for he is old and wise, and knows most of the paths in life. Grandfather has not worn shoes for as long as I can remember, and always walks in silent strength and gentleness. I love his smile. It warms my heart and gives me strength. Around Grandfather, problems seem small and insignificant. Immediately he takes us by the hand and together we walk in silence along the pathway of the sun. Grandfather seems in good spirits today, but as always, he knows our hearts.


    “Look, there are some wildflowers,” he says smiling at Little Feet, “See, look how they trust in Spirit.” Grandfather points into the sky. 


    “And there… see those birds flying here and there? They trust in Spirit too.” He stands looking around, his arms spread out at his sides.


    “See the rocks, resting in the sun without fear. The winds blow, knowing neither where nor when they will turn. The water flows, trusting in its nature to overcome any obstacles. The clouds fly, trusting in the direction of the winds.”


    Grandfather takes a deep breath and pauses, looking around in all directions. “When the flowers, the birds, the rocks, the winds, the water and the clouds know how to trust in Spirit and their own path, why is it so hard for us to do the same, my son?”


    Grandfather is watching us out of the corner of his eye. I know this game, because he does it every time. This means, now you tell me. Grandfather is looking wide-eyed now and grinning from ear to ear.


    “I don’t know Grandfather,” exclaims Little Feet, all wide eyed now himself with anticipation.


    Grandfather leans down, takes him by the shoulders, looks him straight in the eye and says, “It’s because we are human beings, my son, and we don’t know any better.”


    With that, he roars with laughter and so do we, although we really don’t know why. But it doesn’t matter, because we’ve forgotten our sorrows, at least for the moment.


    “Where are we going Grandfather?” asks Little Feet, who is now skipping merrily in circles around Grandfather.    


     “We’re going to Sacred Mountain, my son, to watch the dance of light and shadow.”


    I can see Little Feet is happy now, and I am feeling better as well. Sacred Mountain is quite a climb, but Grandfather is strong, and has been there many times. When we arrive at the summit, the sun is nearly setting, and we can see the valley below on all sides, bathed in color and highlighted against the deepening shadows of the undergrowth below. The dance had begun.


    Grandfather was silent a long time, and we sat together motionless with our thoughts in the growing darkness. Little Feet had fallen asleep between us, his little head rested gently on Grandfathers lap, and his hands clutched Grandfather tightly even in sleep.


    As I watched them, the sorrow crept back into my heart, and I whispered softly to myself, “Look at them…but I am neither here nor there, young nor old, wise nor innocent.”


    The sounds of the night were awakening, and echoed across the vast valley below. Grandfather was gazing into some far off horizon, gently stroking Little Feet’s hair.


    Slowly and softly grandfather spoke, “You know my son, for a human being, you’re not doing as bad as you think. It could be a lot worse. Look what is happening out in the world. Many have forgotten their true path, and don’t feel pain anymore, even when they kill their own.”


    He paused and sighed, obviously deep in thought. “Don’t be so hard on yourself,” he said with a wry smile, “you’re not the only one that must bear the burden of sorrow in your heart. Every human being encounters sorrow and finds obstacles in their path. Our burdens teach us compassion. The trick is to only carry the burden of one day at a time.”  


    Grandfather took a deep breath raising his arms to the skies, “Ahh…yes, and remember to breathe in the wonder and beauty of life. That always makes me feel better.”


    He then turned and looked me in the eye with a gentleness I have not seen in him before. “Never let the sun set on your pain or anger, without opening your heart to Spirit. I’ve done that all my life, and I’m pretty much at peace with the things Spirit puts in my path.”


    Grandfather paused, his eyes again fixed on the horizon. “The secret is, my son, to listen with your heart to the words of Spirit, instead of the words of fear. Walk your path with bare feet and a light heart and you will see the gifts of Spirit everywhere.”


    Grandfather is wise with years. We sat there the whole night, letting go of broken dreams and wishful thinking. This morning, when the first light warmed my back, I felt the spirit of a new day dawning. Although I had not forgotten the sorrow of the day before, I had found a safe place within my heart, to keep it as a reminder to always walk the gentler paths of life.


 Copyright, 2006, by Russ Njust.  All Rights Reserved.